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Govt moots major communication plan

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 2 – The government will before the end of next year have a well structured and coordinated strategy to guide it in effectively communicating its policies and activities.

This follows the launch of the 15-member National Communications Strategy Taskforce which has been mandated to come up with overarching communications guidelines that all public sector agencies and departments will be expected to draw from.

"Interim guidelines are should be ready by January and they are supposed to offer a framework for ministries and government agencies in the short term. This is because they must have operational guidelines even as the process of national consultation goes on," explained Head of the Taskforce\’s Secretariat Dr George Outa.

The inter-ministerial team which was gazetted by Prime Minister Raila Odinga in September this year has 12 months to formulate a National Communications Strategy and Policy Handbook under the theme \’one government, one voice\’.

The need to develop a comprehensive strategy arose from the damage done to the government\’s overall public image when different ministries or officials read from different scripts.

Currently, the government agencies and departments lack a common standard governing basic communication for example in the use of letter heads.

However, with the implementation of this policy which would see the government begin to speak in one voice, Mr Outa projected that it would enhance a sense of unity in policy making which would in turn raise the country\’s profile as a competitive investment destination.

Speaking during the launch of the taskforce, Information Minister Samuel Poghisio said the new harmonised strategy would go a long way in enabling the government to uphold the fundamental human right of access to information as provided for in the new constitution.

The need for the government to communicate its policies, he pointed out, was greater now that the country has a new constitution, which empowers citizens to have unlimited access to information to enable them properly scrutinize how their resources are being utilised.

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"This in itself calls for the formulation of more robust government wide communications strategy to enable us streamline the flow of news and information among state organs as well as harmonise the process associated with dissemination of this information," Mr Poghisio added.

By having an interactive process which would result in participatory development, the minister said the country would be better placed to fight poverty and create wealth for the populace and thus attain its goal of becoming a middle-income state in the next two decades.

Present at the function was Government Spokesman Alfred Mutua who disclosed that the government was considering having communications studies incorporated in school curriculums.

"We have been holding discussions in terms of the problem we have in communications not just in government but throughout the society and there will be a recommendation on issues of communications and inter-personal communications," Mr Mutua said.

But even as these plans were still being mooted, the government he said was working on ways through which it would bypass the media and disseminate its plans and policies directly to the people.

Towards this end he said his office had set up a new SMS service through which the members of the public will receive \’breaking news from the government\’.

"If you send an SMS to 4458, we will be sending you government breaking news so that you can hear it before the media manipulates or takes it or breaks it apart," he said.

This was in recognition that the government needs to keep up with the changing times and needs to provide information through which its citizenry can make informed decisions.

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