14 February 2013

Kenya Launches National ICT Master Plan 2017, Aims to Connect All

Kenya has launched the National ICT Master Plan, a policy document that will guide the country's ICT direction in the next five years, to 2017. Dr. Bitange Ndemo, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communication says that the country aims to be a Knowledge Economy by then. He was speaking at the organised by the Kenya ICT Board(KICTB) at the Sarova Stanley and attended by a cross section of ICT stakeholders. Notably present was Micah Cheserem, the chair of the Community on Revenue Allocation. ICT is expected to contribute greatly to Kenya's gross domestic product. "This masterplan will take Kenya to Canaan," commented Ndemo.

The three pillars of the masterplan will be to establish Kenya as a leading African ICT hub, to establish robust accessible and affordable ICT infrastructure and delivery of open and efficient government delivering value through ICT.

The masterplan was prepared by lead consultants Harry Hare, Wadzanai Chiota-Madziva and edited by Joseph McOluoch with support from the National Communication Secretariat, IBM Corporate Service Corps, Creative Industry Task Force, Connected Health Task Force, Fidaly Kezar and Dorothy Nzeki from HP and Sally Kimeu and Tim Hirsch from Cisco.

Ndemo says that the masterplan is already under implementation, and that documentation in the form of the policy paper was what was lagging. Paul Kukubo , KICTB CEO says the draft masterplan has been in circulation for months with the aim of accepting input from the industry, but not much input had been received. The masterplan will continue receiving "substantial input" for the next few weeks, before being finalised.

The document replaces the 2006 master plan, which was seven pages long and focused on infrastructure. Ndemo says that he faced lots of challenge when he proposed the establishment of the The East African Marine System (TEAMS) to bring 3 Terabits Per second of connectivity to the country, with skeptics questioning who would use the capacity seeing the country was then on a 1.5 Gigabit per second satellite link (1000 Gbps = 1 Tbps). Since then, Kenya has had four undersea cables and a fifth cable is currently in it's initial progress, with two more undersea cables planned to bring the total to seven. Not much detail has been given on the last three cables.

The masterplan is now focussing on connecting every Kenyan to the Internet. "Guaranteeing every Kenyan 1 Mbps of connectivity is not a dream," the PS said. Recent whitespace trials by Microsoft and Indigo Telecom had seen residents in rural Kenya receiving up to 8 megabits per second though their TV aerials . The country is also on the verge of a joint roll out a 4G-LTE network by a consortium of telecommunication firms and government.

The PS says that the government stands to make lots of savings from automating various agencies, such as procurement. He said the digital automation of the lands registry had increased collection of the registry from KSh. 800 million to KSh. 9 billion.

John Sergon, Director eGovernment stated that 19 counties were now connected via telepresence units.

Cheserem said that Kenya loses KSh. 300 billion to corruption annually, and automation would go a long way on stemming this. However, Professor Tim Waema from the University of Nairobi's School of Computing and Informatics cautions that in the contrary, IT has been emerging as the new face of corruption in the country, where various scams now involve the use of ICT.

Some of the highlights of the master plan's implementation include the January 23rd launch of the Konza Technology city. The PS says that Konza has received a lot of interest, way more than he had imagined it would. This he says include expression of interest to set up in Konza by two device manufacturing, which Ndemo says will help bring much needed and absent manufacturing to Kenya. He says that the University of Nairobi had developed a prototype digital set top box, but was unable to raise any funding for mass manufacture of the same. The university has also worked on a prototype tablet and is now looking for funds to manufacture the same.

The master plan however faces many challenges. Kukubo says that Kenya spends only 0.3 percent of its annual budget on ICT, compared with other governments that spend about 5 percent.

In a panel discussing the masterplan, Harry Mwangi, KICTB Public Sector and Shared Services project manager says that he hopes the next government will rationalise the ICT sector in a bid to avoid duplication of strategies within ministries. In addition, a number of ministries faced ICT implementation challenges as such projects fell under non -ICT managers.

At the event, Dr. Kamal Bhttacharya, Director IBM Research -Africa said the firm would establish a supercomputer in Nairobi. He however did not give specifics.

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