Takeaways From The Just Concluded ICT Innovation Forum

Innovation Forum, President

Innovation Forum, PresidentThe ICT Authority Innovation forum came to an end today after two days of immense discussion on the way forward in ICT today. The forum attracted startups, delegates and major industry players in which various issues affecting ICT in Kenya were largely discussed. The forum made significant gains with a presidential directive on buying local ICT productions for all government ministries and departments. The platform allowed for all stakeholders to plug in and create collaborative partnerships going forward towards improving the sector. It also proved the increasing dominance of ICT as a major driver of the Kenyan economy.

Enterprise Kenya established and role defined

The forum was also successful as the dream of the Enterprise Kenya foundation is finally alive. The enterprise Kenya foundation will be a quasi-owned government private sector body charged with the mandate of scaling Kenya ICT. The body will offer a single framework for innovators to sell their products, offer venture funds for start-ups as well as help the industry thrive as Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) and Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) did for the various sectors. The ICT authority promised concrete action to this effect through institutional reforms, collaboration with stakeholders and a local content policy.

Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore talked of the need to harness capacity and bridge the gaps in ICT.  “Start-ups have the ability to make the best products. They sweat every detail and over-think all aspects thereby creating a niche,” said Collymore.  The CEO also reaffirmed Safaricom’s commitment in supporting innovation in the country through the mobile development challenge and the setting up of the angel fund for developers.

Developers who win the App challenge will also have a chance to participate in global innovation challenges. Speaking of the challenges, Collymore spoke of the need to offer global platforms for local products, accelerate growth through incubators and funding for business ideas. He also challenged the government to endorse local ICT products.

180,000 Jobs and 15,000 internships expected

“There is need to mind the gap and bridge the gap”, said KITOS chairman Mike Macharia. Macharia who is also CEO of local ICT company Seven Seas Technologies, spoke of the need to see the bigger picture and transform the various sectors of the economy through ICT. Macharia proposed the commercialization of ICT research. KITOS, a representative of the private sector also challenged the government to implement the interventions in the ICT sector.  This will in turn offer 180,000 jobs, 15,000 internships and unlock cheaper capital for the ICT sector.  On the pledges, KITOS offered to be annually measured on their commitments once the government effects the interventions.

Solid talk, there will be action this time round – promise, measurable targets

ICT Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i promised to support incubators through funding and integration of the private sector and the public sector.  “These efforts will be institutionalized to ensure we make meaningful and gainful achievements” said the CS.  Matiang’i promised there will be no government fallthrough in the discussions made during the forum and clear and measurable targets will be made to that effect.

The president commended the role of the ICT sector in the automation of the government systems and working towards the creation of the Silicon Savanna.  The government is committed to improving infrastructure geared at lowering the costs of production, deployment of digital program in the public service and offering funding through Uwezo fund.  The president assured of the government commitment towards creation of ICT hubs and incubators, establishment of the Enterprise Kenya foundation and increasing ICT exports. The president also directed for purchase of local ICT products.

The innovation forum also allowed different start-ups to pitch and showcase their ideas. This offered the companies a platform to increase their visibility. Among the notable startups were Boresha Limited, Soko Text, Buymore and CladLight.

IMG courtesy PCSU Digital