On track towards innovation target
DAILY NATION By JEFF WANJOHI
Friday March 31, 2017
American technology magnate Bill Gates once said: “The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.”
In Kenya, that tomorrow is already here, with more than 30 million Internet users recorded by last year, up from about 6 million in 2010, according to available online statistics.
Kenya’s Internet penetration has become the envy of every other country on the African continent.
In fact, the country’s 70 per cent Internet usage is much greater than that of all of its five neighbours in the East African Community put together.
According to an Internet world stats website, this translates to more than 30 million users against, for instance, only 18 million for Tanzania and Uganda combined.
Remarkably, Kenya is now even said to have a higher Internet penetration than some of the European countries such as Greece.
According to the most recent Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) statistics, there has been an increase of almost 20 per cent in terrestrial wireless data subscriptions since the same period last year, and an extremely impressive growth of 113 per cent in the satellite data subscriptions also during that time.
This Internet penetration has also helped to lay the foundation of Africa’s ‘Silicon Savannah’, which has been essential for technological innovation and attracting international high-tech investment and interest.
Disrupt Africa, a website which monitors Africa’s startup infrastructure, last year demonstrated that Kenya’s technology startups chalked up more than Sh4.7 billion ($43 million) in funding from several investment calls.
Kenya’s Information Communication Technology (ICT) innovation sector is not only for entrepreneurship, it has also been integral in efforts aimed at moving the country forward.
This is clearly evident in the increased digitisation of service delivery across the various platforms, which include those meant for the provision of government services.
This impressive development, by any standards, has been made possible through increased convergence of government services online, the introduction of digital signal television, and the upscaling of utility billing that is now readily accessible on the mobile phones and on the e-Citizen platforms, among other areas.
Also, according to the 2015 Kenya Economic Survey, the ICT sector in the country was worth a whopping Sh138 billion in 2014.
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration launched Enterprise Kenya, an initiative that is supporting and strengthening the technology entrepreneurship ecosystem in the country.
Indeed, the “digital duo Uhuruto”, as the President and Deputy President William Ruto are often referred to, have since their election in 2013, made some headway in the efforts to digitise Kenya into a fast world, with the use of advanced technology.
The move to zero-rate imported ICT hardware has encouraged Kenyan entrepreneurs and businessmen and women to fully invest in the industry in a bid to improve access to ICT products and services.
This has, in turn, spurred the impressive growth of the gross domestic product, that stands at 5.9 per cent last year, which is almost double that of the global average.
The future investment will be in promoting homegrown solutions such as in hardware production.
It is a vision embodied by the recorded successes of the Jubilee government.
In recognition of this remarkable progress, in 2015, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) honoured President Kenyatta with a prestigious award for promoting the use of ICT solutions for sustainable development, during a ceremony at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
President Kenyatta has reaffirmed his commitment to mainstreaming innovations and ICT to enable the envisaged remarkable growth and development of the country and the whole region.
Kenya’s ICT Master Plan and National Broadband Strategy outline the desired path to a knowledge-based economy where ICT underpins service delivery, and provides the bedrock for the required activities in critical sectors of the economy, especially agriculture, health and education.
Kenya is well on its way to becoming the town square for innovation in Africa and beyond.