The use of ICT in improving service delivery in the DGIE
Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration

The Problem

The Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration (DGIE) is a public institution of the Republic of Rwanda with the following mandate: a) issuing travel documents to Rwandans, b) issuance of entry visa, resident/work permits, and citizenship to foreigners, c) border management.
The DGIE serves Rwandans and people all over the world. The availability and access to its services was limited to physical presence of the clients at Immigration offices or at the few Diplomatic missions abroad. All services were manual which was costly in terms of distance covered and the frequency of visiting offices to acquire a service. A client applying for a passport would go through the following process: firstly would come to Immigration office to seek information regarding the requirements. Secondly he/she would fill application form and submit it with the prescribed fee. Then he/she would return after four weeks to check whether the passport was processed. If it was not ready for some reasons, he/she would be given appointment to come and clarify the outstanding issues before returning for passport collection. This is equivalent to 5 working days wasted for getting a passport. As a result, if a passport costs 50,000 Rwanda Francs (83USD), a person would spend an estimate of 75,000Frw (125 USD) for travel costs and in addition to time wasted.
For foreigners intending to travel to Rwanda, the situation was more difficult for them to acquire entry visa as they were required to either travel or send application documents by courier to Rwandan Embassies. This process was costly in terms of travel costs, time and security risks associated with mailing their travel documents. For instance, it was very difficult for an Australian intending to visit Rwanda as he/she needed to send documents to Japan which was the nearest Rwandan diplomatic mission to acquire a visa. Another alternative would be to risk traveling without the required visa, which was increasingly difficult especially after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the USA.
Both processes of issuing passports and visas were long and slow, and required a large number of staff. It involved a minimum of five steps starting from receptionist, registration, document verification, approval and archiving. The average number of passports produced and visas issued per month was 800 and 250 respectively which was very low compared to high demand of clients. Some Rwandans opted to travel without travel documents by sneaking through unauthorized crossing points while others opted not to travel out of the country. In the case of foreigners, they would risk traveling without entry visa sometimes being denied boarding planes by ground crew or being returned upon arrival.
Such situation could most often lead to corruption, nepotism and influence peddling. The manual system was a barrier to trade and disincentive to tourism industry thus leading to loss of revenues for the country. In this regard, electronic service delivery was recommended as a solution.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
The initiative is the use of electronic processes in all DGIE services including the issuance of travel documents, entry visa, and resident/work permits. The objective was to offer efficient and effective services as a part of Government strategy of promoting e-government. The initiative involves the use of the organization’s website for information and transactions including electronic self service tools and auto-notification. The use of cellular phones in text messages on the queries in the application and time when the document will be ready for pick up is part of the initiative. In the same process the public and clients in particular can send complaints or request for feedback. The initiative has successfully removed the uncertainties in acquiring travel document at all levels.
Quantitatively, the application has reduced the number of days of acquiring passports from 30 days to less than 5 days. It has also eliminated the additional cost incurred by clients on unnecessary transport and wastage of time.
For applicants of entry visa, the initiative has removed the application time and transport cost to submit their applications to Embassies or DGIE offices from two weeks to a few minutes of online application. With the use of online entry visa, the number of people applying to come to Rwanda per day has increased from less than 30 applicants per day in 2005 to over 200 in 2010.
The other positive impact is cost cutting in human resources where before the initiative, about 22 people in Rwandan missions abroad and 7 people at Immigration Head Office, were involved in the paper work of issuing visas. However, currently more than 90% of entry visa are processed by one person connected to Internet. This person processing the applications is not limited to working hours as he/she can access the system at any time to clear urgently requests even after working hours. As the system works as a virtual office, operating 24/7, applicants are not limited to the time zones.
Over 90% of people travelling to Rwanda prefer using online entry visa because of its efficiency compared to visa issued in diplomatic missions as shown below.
Year 2008 2009 2010
Online Entry Visa 56,195 79,583 100,119
Embassies 3,926 4,239 4,850

Qualitatively, the initiative has made DGIE one of the best performing organization in service delivery in the country. The customer survey made by an independent organization, called “On The Frontier” (OTF), showed DGIE to be the best in public and private institutions in service delivery.
Immigration: -14%
Hotels: -17%
Water Utility: -21%
Telecoms: -22%
Banks: -25%
District: -33%
The system has improved the image of the country as a competitive travel and business destination, which is a clear indicator of the ease of doing business in Rwanda. It has also contributed to the growth of tourism sector with an increase of more than four times of revenues. Benefits from this initiative cut across to all Rwandans who wish to travel for any reasons and citizens of the world who wish to travel to Rwanda.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
With the principle of change management, the DGIE established an Innovation Team with a mandate to assess the level of the service delivery and to propose innovative projects in order to help DGIE achieve its mission of ‘creating a secure, enabling environment for increased trade, investment, tourism and skills development through professional conduct and offering high quality service’.
The team was composed of five voluntary members representing all department of the institution. The team came up with a proposal of improving DGIE services by introducing e-services to save time, transaction costs and to access otherwise difficult to reach clients especially abroad. The proposal was presented and discussed at all levels of the institution to increase ownership and was then approved by senior management.
DGIE engaged the public in regular survey to collect comments on the processes involved in services delivery and the results were incorporated in the changes to be made. Consultative meetings were also held between DGIE and other stakeholders including travel and tour agencies, local government authorities and the views expressed were used to enhance the applicability of the new system.
Other stakeholders involved in the implementation include Private Internet Service Providers (ISP), telecommunication companies for the use of mobile phones, and Rwanda Information Technology Authority (RITA currently RDB/IT) for network infrastructure. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) donated some hardware equipment. The government put in place a budget for procurement, operation and maintenance of the system. A local private company worked with the DGIE IT Engineers to design the system.
Today the initiative above is now a service that is being implemented largely by DGIE employees committed to offering high quality services to the public. Some beneficiaries including travel and tour agencies and hotels are involved in the actual implementation and promotion of the projects especially the online entry visa.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
The strategies used to meet the main objective of attaining the DGIE vision and mission as earlier stated included conducting public surveys to identify areas that needed improvement, brainstorming among employees led by the innovation team on the possible solutions and SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis to get appropriate solutions. In the process priority areas were identified and implementation plan formulated starting with quick wins followed by medium and long term plans. This was conceptualization of the initiative where all ideas were collected in order to clearly understand and identify the business needs.
A team composed of interested employees that would work closely on the initiative was formed. The team identified services that could be changed from manual to electronic for the start. In the same line, the team did a feasibility study where technical, operational and financial analysis was carried out in order to meet a proper project implementation plan. The feasibility study included gathering of information from clients and the public on the difficulties they face in getting services. It became apparent that there was a need to focus on efficiency of service delivery through electronic processes.
A general institution strategic plan was created to guide the expected changes brought by focusing on electronic processes. The implementation of the strategic plan resulted in restructuring and introduction of departments such as ICT services, public relations and customer care, and online services.
The implementation phase involved awareness to employees, stakeholders and the public in general. All DGIE employees were given basic training in electronic service delivery to own this initiative. Public awareness of e-services was done through radios, television, newspapers, local administration meetings, diplomatic missions abroad and stakeholder workshops. A website was created that linked to other relevant public and private institutions websites.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
The key development was to provide quality services to clients through electronic processes. The implementation of the initiative involved several projects that were done in different phases and steps.
Providing information to the public on the services offered was identified as a critical gap which made establishment of the organization website a high priority. A website was designed and developed in 2005, All the information on application forms, requirements and other related services offered by the DGIE were provided by the website. A second function of online entry visa was added to the website in 2006. In the same year, a third function of border management was established to compliment the website application process and ensuring security in managing movement of people.
In 2007, the website was improved comprehensively to include tracking tools as a way of enabling clients to monitor the services offered to them. The upgrade also included enhancing the security of the application process to ensure data integrity and confidentiality that was a major concern of the applicants. In 2008, electronic archiving was initiated to increase the efficiency of the electronic applications. This was followed by integrating the web-based applications and electronic archive to create an electronic work flow that minimize and will altogether eliminate paper based systems.
The website was further reviewed in 2009 to accommodate additional features such as automatic-notification messages as Short Message Service (SMS) and E-mails to applicants. To strengthen this function, all telecommunication companies operating in the country were contracted to enable the DGIE website send automated SMS to customers. All these were done by creating a software application that could support the provision of those electronic services. The software that was developed for this purpose included SMS gateway and tracking tool complimented by an electronic archive, which enabled applicants to get information on the progress/status of their applications online. This also promoted self service which made service delivery more efficient and effective. An applicant was able to know whether their immigration visa or passport was issued. If there was additional information required, the client receives a text message on the issue of concern including appointments. In addition to all these services, an applicant can also track the status of their application through tracking tool on the website by using the provided unique secure tracking number sent on applicants email as an acknowledgement message.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
The initiative of transforming DGIE services to electronic based services encountered both technical and administrative obstacles. The implementation required reliable Internet services. At the beginning in 2005, there was a problem of Internet connection which was slow and unreliable. There was only one Internet Service Provider (ISP) which was oversubscribed and could not fulfill its customer demand. Efforts to establish a mirror website outside Rwanda as a backup was made but it was not successful. In 2007, other private Internet Service Providers started working. Currently the Government has established a fiber optic cable network throughout the country which has greatly improved the Internet service.
The second obstacle which is partially technical and partially administrative was the availability of skilled employees to run and maintain the system. Because of poor remuneration in public service, most of the skilled manpower opted to work for the private sector. Since then the Government has provided incentives for young IT graduates which enabled the institution to employ skilled staff. Outsourcing of specific skills was also used to mitigate the problem. A third problem was that of digital divide; few applicants could get access to Internet. This problem was resolved by linking the service to mobile phones which are widely available to most clients.
The change from manual based system to IT based system was challenging at the beginning to both the staff of DGIE and its clients. Like any other change based on attitude and institutional culture, there was resistance to change. Some employees thought they would lose their job as they did not have computer skills while others wanted face to face meetings with customers for their personal interests. All these issues were solved progressively by providing basic training on ICT skills to the staff and sensitization them on the advantages of using ICT in service delivery to the institution and the country at large. The establishment of the national migration policy and subsequent creating the institution vision and mission with a focus on electronic based service delivery helped in transforming the employee attitude.
Another obstacle was clients’ resistance to change because at the beginning most of them wished to maintain physical contact with Immigration offices to acquire services traditionally and try to use influence peddling. This was solved by increasing efficiency and enhancing public awareness through media and targeted workshops to local leaders.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
The introduction of electronic services to DGIE required sufficient resources to make it a success and its implementation involved a number of activities which necessitated funds, technical support and skilled staff.
In 2005, the management tasked a team of two IT skilled employees, at no extra staff cost, and a volunteer to develop a website with a cost of less than 1000 US Dollars. The purchase of hardware was estimated to about 10,000 USD and annual website hosting of 1000 USD. The project was funded by the DGIE ordinary budget through the Ministry of Finance. In 2006, DGIE received support from International Telecommunication Union (ITU) of hardware equipments including 15 desktops and 2 servers.
In 2007, a local company was contracted to upgrade the system in order to accommodate more services and improve its efficiency. This required additional amount of 8,000 USD. Currently there is a monthly fee that is paid for the maintenance of the application and cost of SMS gateway, the annual charge amounting to 3000 USD.
On completion of the system design, it was necessary to conduct training of IT Engineers as well as all DGIE employees on the system. The cost for basic computer knowledge training for all employees was 2000 USD. As more services were added to the system, it was necessary to recruit two more IT Engineers to support and maintain the developed system. Their annual gross salary was 30.000 USD.
The efficiency of the system has reduced bureaucracy leading to increased number of people seeking both passports and visas and generates income to the public funds. This has facilitated DGIE to mobilize funds to maintain and upgrade the system from annual budget request.
The resources were mobilized mainly through the Government treasury. The Government has many priorities; therefore getting resources is competitive as it gets funds from outside donors. The management took advantage of the performance of the initiative which was in line with the government policy of improving service in the public sector thus a bargaining tool to get budget for its projects from the Ministry of Finance and Planning.
In addition, due to the success of the initiative, DGIE has through RDB/IT managed to mobilize substantial of funds from the World Bank for workflow document and e-forms projects that will modernize application form and enhance paperless working environment.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
The e-services initiative at the DGIE is sustainable and can be replicated by both public and private institutions. The online single entry visa service started to operate since 2006 and has proved to be sustainable and successful without major problems as shown by the increase in the number of users since its inception.
The following table shows the number of applicants on online entry visa from 2006 to 2010.
Year 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
Number of applicants. 36,257 48,356 56,195 79,583 100,119

The use of electronic process in issuance of travel documents to Rwandans specifically passports has reduced the number of days from 30 days before 2005 to 10 days in 2008, and currently between 5 days for first application and 3 days for renewal. The use of mobile phones in auto-notification has made the system more sustainable, as it reaches the intended customer of all social groups more easily including remote areas of the country. The Immigration and Emigration law was amended to allow for electronic processes and online applications where earlier the law accepted physical presence in application and retrieval of travel documents.
To make the system more sustainable, it is being updated to accommodate other features and integrate with other existing applications to include online payment. There are also other initiatives such as integration of the system with the national identification database. This will improve significantly the electronic process in the verification of breeder documents such birth certificates used in the issuance of travel documents. The initiative is kept on the required ICT standard systems through certification by Rwanda Utility Regulatory Authority.
Nationally, the initiative has been replicated in other public institutions such as Rwanda National Police adopted online registration and tracking tools for issuance of driving permits, Rwanda Revenue Authority adopted it for customers’ tax declaration, Rwanda National Examination Council use tracking tools for pupils and students to check their examination results while Rwanda Development Board replicated for online business registration.
Regionally, Immigration services from different countries have visited DGIE to witness the initiative. These countries include the departments of Immigration from Republic of Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Uganda and mostly recently the Democratic Republic of Congo.
At continental level, the initiative won the 2009 African Association of Public Administration and Management (AAPAM) Innovative Management Award. AAPAM published the description of the online entry visa to introduce the initiative to other parts of the continent for purposes of sharing best practices and possible replication.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
The e-services in DGIE have significantly brought positive impact to the institution, employees, the public (nationals and foreigners) and to the economy of the country.

To the public, clients have benefited from the efficient service rendered to them. It has saved their time, increased transparency, reduced bureaucracy and eliminated unnecessary costs. The public has changed the perception of the DGIE as bureaucratic public institution to the best agency in service delivery in both public and private organizations.

DGIE Employees have changed attitude towards service delivery and electronic services has reduced their workload and brought tremendous achievements. On 1st May 2010 (Labour Day), the DGIE received a Certificate of Appreciation from the Ministry of Public Service and Labour for being the best institution in customer care and service delivery in the country. In 2009, the online entry visa system made DGIE win the prestigious 2009 AAPAM innovative management award. In 2008 the institution won the 2008 ICT “Intego” award for excellence in e-Government solution. The success made by the institution has motivated the employees in team building, creativity and a sense of continuous improvement. It has controlled corruption and influence peddling thereby contributing to the overall goal of the government of building a society free of corruption.

Economically, the e-service delivery initiative has contributed to the economy of the country by making it easy for tourists to travel to Rwanda. It has improved the image of the country as a competitive travel and business destination, which is a clear indicator of the ease of doing business in Rwanda. Earnings from tourism have more than quadrupled in the last five years and easy of travel to Rwanda for a country that has only a handful of embassies abroad has been cited as one contributing factors.
This initiative has demonstrated how developing countries can compete with developed countries by taking advantages of digital revolution. In the same context it demonstrated how simple initiative can provide affordable solutions and contribute to making a difference in the world. Various feedbacks from clients have confirmed the importance of use of ICT in service delivery as one of the several emails below demonstrates.
From: Eric Buhl-Nielsen []
Sent: Wednesday, April 27, 2011 1:13 AM
To: 'Republic of Rwanda [Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration]'
Subject: RE: Republic of Rwanda Single Entry Visa # RWA134992881

Dear Director General of Immigration and Emigration,

I commend you on your prompt service. Having travelled to more than 40 countries, I can confidently say that your service is by far the most prompt and efficient I have ever experienced

Yours sincerely

Eric Buhl-Nielsen

The key elements that made the success of the e-services in DGIE include the Government policy to promote the use of ICT in line with the vision 2020. This enabled the provision of relevant infrastructure and budget support. The initiative could not have been successful without the institution adopting appropriate management practices, which transformed the institution to balance perfectly security and facilitation instead of focusing on immigration control.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Melody Twahirwa
Title:   Head of Corporate Services  
Telephone/ Fax:   +250788352520
Institution's / Project's Website:
Address:   P.o.Box 6229
Postal Code:  
City:   Kigali
Country:   Rwanda

          Go Back

Print friendly Page