15 February 2013

Kenya: A Five-Year National ICT Master Plan Developed

In the last decade, Kenya has moved from a very backward position technology-wise to one to look out for. From dead slow internet speeds to plenty of bandwidth, low mobile network coverage to robust countrywide coverage and now eyeing Long Term Evolution technology like the rest of the world.

Most of these developments have been mostly pushed by the consumer demands and need to keep up with the global business environment.

In 2006, the government had a plan whose focus was on building infrastructure to connect Kenyans to the internet. Thus, one fibre optic cable was welcome. That was then, now there are four fibre optic cables live in the country, a fifth one is expected to land very soon and two more later.

With sufficient broadband now in place, Kenya is ready for take off to be the ICT hub of Africa.

The ministry of Information and Communication has developed a five-year master plan that will determine the priorities and key initiatives to be undertaken to achieve this.

The master plan to be implemented up to 2017 will be anchored on three main pillars: enhancing public services, use of ICT in businesses and industries and developing local innovators and content.

The blueprint will be developed in line with the national development plan, Vision 2030.On the public front, it aims to have 100 per cent of the population connected to the internet and able to access at least 80 per cent of the public services online.

"So far we have all the 47 counties connected on the national fibre backbone. Once the county governments take over we will take a whole-of-government approach constitution to IT alignment," said Information PS Bitange Ndemo while launching the master plan.

Other priority areas that have been identified are provision of health services by growth of tele-medicine and health apps, connected education trough a National Schools Education Network (SENet) and connected agriculture

The plan aims to develop a pool of innovators to create 500 ICT companies and 50,000 jobs. This will make the ICT industry to contribute an estimated 25 per cent of Gross Domestic Product by 2017.

The impact is also expected to be felt by SMEs with their automation projected at 60 per cent, the number of commercialised business is placed at a 100 while 20 new innovations are expected to be propagated globally.

There have been concerns that the current ICT plans have been developed to attract investments from outside rather than grow local investors.

"Most of the plans around are meant to please the multinationals and not the SMEs,"says John Waibochi, CEO of Virtual City.This has been successful to some extent but the full potential of local IT innovators have been under-exploited.

Techpreneurs say the government should now focus more on building the talents rather than on the physical structures.

The third pillar of the master plan is strengthening ICT as a driver of businesses and industry. This would eventually create employment through other forms like manufacturing and Business Process OutSourcing.

This will be supported by the launch of LTE which is close."Whitespace trials being done by the regulator CCK are delivering up to 8 Mbps to homes through TV antennas,"Ndemo said.

He said three international handset manufacturers have expressed interest in shifting some of their chip manufacturing to Kenya's Konza Techno City.

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