The Computer Society of Kenya

Since 1986

KonzapxDAILY NATION By JOHN WALUBENGO

Wednesday October 18, 2017

It’s been a whole year of politics, with no guarantee that October 26 will settle and bring the political contentions to its logical conclusion.

So, rather than put our lives on hold, we must learn to multi-task. In other words, we let the politicians do their job while we do ours.

Government must continue driving the ICT sector without losing momentum.   Of course some may argue in favour of putting the Jubilee administration ICT agenda on hold, until after the elections or when the prevailing political questions are settled.

However, there is a bigger argument about the country’s ICT agenda that would override any administrations agenda – irrespective of whether that administration is Jubilee, Nasa or the Thirdway Alliance. That bigger argument is defined in the Vision2030 documents. 

The rationale behind Vision2030 is to shield national projects from the temporary distractions that arise very five years when political actors are fiercely engrossed in competition for power.

During this period, life and more importantly government programs must continue as guided by Vision 2030.

KNOWLEDGE, NOT GOODS

From an ICT perspective, the key program listed in Vision2030 is the establishment of the Konza Technology City. This is, therefore, the one thing that each administration must prioritise, even if the political bickering continues beyond October 26, 2017.

Like the US Apollo mission to land on the moon, Project Konza City must be our BHAG – Big, Hairy, Audacious, Goal. Whether we succeed or not should be secondary, since the effort and focus going into such a mission is sufficient to build competencies that are likely to spin off new industries previously not imagined.

The objective of Konza Techno City is simply to set up a hub that would act as the focal point for generating, attracting and retaining ICT talent to service a global ICT market.

Initially known as Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), this global market has grown to include IT-enabled services (ITES).  The BPO /ITES concept is very similar to the traditional EPZ (export processing zones) we have for the manufacturing sector.

Governments set up EPZ to afford manufacturers attractive, affordable conditions for investments, such as cheaper utilities (power, water), world-class amenities (roads, restaurants, housing, etc.) and affordable but highly educated talent (graduates).  

Other benefits include tax holidays to ensure investors come flocking in, creating job opportunities.

The difference between manufacturing and BPO/ITES is that what is being manufactured or produced is knowledge, rather than the traditional fabrics, foodstuff or household goods. 

KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY CONTRACTS

We are, indeed, in the knowledge economy where Internet bandwidth meets ICT talent to create economic opportunities and jobs that are not yet defined.  Even where traditional goods are produced, the folks at the top of the value chain, such as design engineers, get to extract the highest benefit.

As an example of IT enabled service, design work in engineering, software or creative arts requires only your skill, internet bandwidth and a laptop. Yet to service the huge, global-level, knowledge economy contracts, Kenya must organise and structure design talent in a way that can easily be hired and scalable to global demands. Konza Technology City is Kenya’s answer to this challenge.

How can we generate, attract and retain ICT talent to provide a continuous supply of human capital to service an increasingly automated knowledge economy? It is a question that requires the triple-helix approach where academia, industry and government join hands to create opportunities for innovation within the new economy.

Lets keep the Konza City Vision alive and immune to the periodic slow-downs occasioned by election cycles. After all it is our largest ICT Big, Hairy, Audacious, Goal.

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