Kampala has undertaken an innovative tech-based approach to influence citizen behaviour to pay taxes through a new tax system called eCitie. And let's be clear, taxes are nobody's friend. The filing process can be arduous and complicated in even the most streamlined of systems. Kampala's former collection system was vulnerable to corruption and tax avoidance. But taxes also have an integral role in keeping the state funded and encouraging domestic and foreign investment.
Quartz has written extensively about Africa being the vanguard in mobile banking. I think it's exciting to see innovation in mobile banking solving challenges with government operations and civic duty. Kampala invested in an online platform that reminds citizens when a bill is due, what the bill is, and makes it easy to pay. But as Amy Fallon rightfully points out, a number of steps had to be taken before the tax system could be put in place. This includes aligning the eCitie system with the larger Kampala Capital City Authority effort to streamline revenue collections.
Our work with local authorities, central government, and charities has suggested that innovation and tech can be positive only if it's joined up with broader plans and strategies. For Kampala, their broader strategy is to build capacity to sustain local governance. And for me, this case serves as a reminder for government and private sector alike that tech is only as good as it's alignment with a bigger strategy.
Kampala's experience indicates that people will pay taxes if 1) the government is transparent about where revenue will go, and 2) the process is easy and accessible. This makes sense and is useful guidance for many cities and organisations. But more importantly, this case study highlights a valuable contribution to best practice learning: innovation can encourage behaviour change, but it helps if you identify the outcomes you want from that change.
Musisi is trying to cultivate a local culture that sees paying taxes as a responsibility. Part of that bargain is delivering good customer service and competent local administration in return. It’s hard to create habits around paying taxes when it not only costs people money but also is a frustrating waste of time.