Year 2017 is no doubt going to be an interesting year for the tech space in Kenya. The government plans to go full scale on the laptop project and we may also see a widespread use of technology in the general elections. Key legislations such as the cyber-security bill are likely to be enacted this year. So what should we look out for this new year?
One of the promises of the Jubilee government was the issuing of laptops to standard one pupils around the country. The project had stalled since 2013 owing to legal issues around the award of the tender among other issues. In 2016, the government awarded the tender for the same to the consortia of Moi University– JP SA Couto and Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology (JKUAT)- Positivo BGH which kicked the project into motion. The two have since begun delivering devices to 11,000 schools of the 22,000 targeted with the first phase of the project slated for completion this year. We shall definitely be on the lookout to see how well the government implements this as well as how much of an impact the project will have in the future.
The nation is currently engrossed in a fierce debate pitting various sides of the political divide over the use of technology in elections. Two days ago, Kenya’s ICT Community made submissions to the senate stating that indeed voter identification and transmission of results can take place electronically. The 2017 General Elections will still be the first elections which will see widespread use of technology from EVID (Electronic Voter Identification) kits to the voter register and results transmission. This will definitely be an interesting aspect of following up into the new year.
The government has been keen to pass new laws to propel the growth of the ICT sector into greater heights. In the last year, the president signed the access to information bill into law, which gives citizens rights to access information held by the government. In 2017, several key legislations will likely be signed into law and these include the cyber-security bill, which proposes stiff penalties for crimes relating to computer systems. It also offers guidance on the collection of forensic material for use as evidence and outlines how Kenya will cooperate on matters cyber-crime with other nations. The government will also be keen to implement The National ICT Policy 2016 which will provide the policy framework for the development of the ICT sector for the next five years besides aligning Kenya’s ICT needs with the economic blueprint, vision 2030.
A key highlight for the government in 2016 was the deployment of e-Citizen services allowing Kenyans to access government services via the internet. Launched in August 2014, the eCitizen.go.ke portal allows one to access Ministry of Lands, Immigration to apply for passports, KRA, and other government departments including the NTSA to renew their driving licences. In 2017, the government should focus on covering all counties across the country, the addition of e-Visa services as well as NHIF and NSSF services. Recent additions to the platform include registration of persons for the acquisition of both death and birth certificates. Also, some county government services were added to the platform such as county govt of Nyeri.
Kenya is billed as having one of the highest internet penetration in the developing world, thanks to the growth of users with mobile devices. According to the Communications Authority of Kenya, the number of internet users currently stands at 37.4 Million representing 88% penetration rate (the total internet user figures represent the total number of mobile subs, fixed, satellite among other offerings. It is important to note the figure given for internet users relies on the methodology provided by the ITU. This, of course, means there are chances of double counting in this figures). Despite these very positive figures, this growth has mainly been driven by mobile but there is a growing demand for fixed and broadband internet particularly in the home segment. This is an areas ISPs need to explore particularly in the low-end market.
Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC)
National broadcaster KBC is still sinking in debt, which has hampered its efforts to compete effectively against other players despite having massive coverage in Kenya. The advent of digital migration has not helped KBC’s case either as it faces competition for both content and audience with new and existing players. During his vetting, ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru suggested sale of the broadcaster’s land and other assets to allow them pay their debt and restructure. In 2016, we saw efforts towards this end with the announcement of a five-year strategic plan which will include a rebranding exercise. In 2017, we hope to see some of these efforts pay off and the national broadcaster able to compete with other players. At the same time, the global media landscape continues to shift rapidly meaning the broadcaster needs to align itself with these changes.
We hope this is the year Safaricom releases a holistic M-Pesa API for developers. In an interview with Ronald Webb, Safaricom’s head of financial services, the telco said they plan to release one in 2017 complete with a sandbox for testing, portal for developers and much more. We also hope there will be a higher budgetary allocation to the ICT Ministry in the next financial year to allow for the achieving of key goals and milestones. Also, we hope the Universal Service Fund will be utilized this year to improve network connectivity in under-served areas such that the entire nation gets covered with network connectivity. Fast-tracking of key projects within Konza City would also be another interesting thing to look forward to in the next year.