The growth of ICTs in Kenya has been unprecedented in the recent past.
This is because Kenya is uniquely positioned as one of the leading countries in Africa that have done very well in terms of encouraging the adoption of ICT, and all the innovations associated with them.
In the same spirit, we saw that President Ruto’s manifesto, which was circulated widely prior to the August 2022 polls relied heavily on his plans to boost the industry and move Kenya towards a digital economy.
However, there is a significant development gap in Kenya among different ICTs, which is basically the lack of harmonization between the level of digital development, as well as the time taken for introducing new tech into aspects that are impactful to people, such as business and business spheres.
Whether this issue will be addressed by the current administration is something we will have to wait and see, bearing in mind that some of the suggestions in the manifesto are quite ambitious, but will still go a long way in benefitting all should they be accomplished.
Ruto’s Campaign Manifesto: A blend of the Digital Masterplan and Kenya Kwanza’s Commitments
Prior to the reveal of the ICT aspect in the KK manifesto, Kenya had already revealed a Digital Masterplan that is set to be executed in the next decade. The plan was announced by former ICT CS Joe Mucheru at 2022’s staging of the Connected Kenya Summit.
During its announcement, the government of Kenya had already requested state departments to come up with ICT plans to keep up with developments of both ICT infrastructure and the flow of information that could lead to better decision-making.
At the same time, the decade-long Master Plan was sold as a plan to enhance the collaboration of the public and private sectors to form the development network of information systems and infrastructure.
The Plan also details ICT management and planning for education and training.
It is also worth mentioning the Plan’s pillars, which are essential in its execution.
One of the pillars is the digital infrastructure which has been designed for equitable access to national service through a pervasive and ubiquitous national ICT infrastructure.
The second pillar is digital government services, products, and data management. It will see the provision of e-Government information and services for improved productivity, efficiency, effectiveness, and governance in all sectors.
Digital skills are also part of the Plan: the state wants to see the development of a digitally skilled workforce and citizenry that is grounded on ethical practices and social-cultural values to implement and operationalize this master plan.
Lastly, the Plan seeks to explore digital innovation, enterprise, and digital business. This will effectively enhance the innovation value chain to turn innovative ideas into sustainable businesses and operating models. The pillar also aims to migrate businesses onto the digital platform.
Now, how do these pillars intersect with what Ruto’s ICT manifesto states? (the manifesto actually mentions that it will see that the Plan is fully implemented, but there are more details to support this).
Digitizing government services
Enhance government service delivery through digitization and automation of all government critical processes and make available 80 percent of government services online – Kenya Kwanza Promise
Well, Ruto’s government is planning to digitize at least 80 percent of its services. This goes hand in hand with the Digital Masterplan’s goals of sensitizing state departments to develop ICT plans to keep up with developments of both ICT infrastructure and the flow of information for improved growth.
Universal broadband availability throughout the country within five years. We shall increase and fast-track broadband connectivity across the country by construction of 100,000km of national fibre optic connectivity network – Kenya Kwanza Commitment
The Plan seeks to avail equal access to ICT infrastructure to all Kenyans. Ruto’s manifesto is also leaning towards the same goal because it reports that in the next half a decade, it will see this goal met by laying out over 100K km of the national fibre optic network.
To expound, the ten years have seen the government build more than 9000 kilometres of terrestrial fibre that has reached all Kenya counties via the National Optic Fibre Backbone Infrastructure Project (NOFBI) (Phase 1 was implemented in 2008, Phase 2 in 2014, and 2E in 2017).
The last mile connectivity of the government has also developed 534km of infrastructure that has linked 1650 public institutions and offices in offering services such as the Government Common Core Network (GCCN).
A new report from the Fibre Broadband Association predicts that a four-person household will require 2,141 Mbps speeds in the next decade.
Africa Regional Hub and boosting local digital talent
Establish Africa Regional Hub and promote the development of software for export – KK in its manifesto
Perhaps the unique part of the manifesto is the section where KK says it plans the establishment of an Africa Regional Hub and promotion development of software for export.
This has been done before because there are a ton of local companies that have exported their software services to other companies. These include companies that are involved in payments (Cellulant and others), logistics (Twiga and others), and e-taxi (Little). A regional hub, for sure, will go a long way in encouraging additional exports.
It should be noted that some global corporations have their regional hubs in Kenya, and have done exemplarily well in hiring local talent.
This, however, has been faulted by some local companies, which argue that these tech companies offer highly competitive salaries that they cannot match, which is also at the expense of them having the ability to keep in-house talent.
This issue, however, is not talked about in the manifesto, although there are a few pointers to it.
Still, looking at the large picture, both local and global ICT firms, as well as government agencies, are in the process of boosting the tech pool in the country through various programs, which, if supported by the KK government, will go a long way in alleviating talent constraints.
For instance, the Digital Talent Program seeks to impart digital skills to participants, while taking a ‘sustainable approach to creating a healthy digital talent pipeline.’
The program is training more than 1000 participants on digital skills that are currently in high demand. The program is also receiving support from academia, training partners, tech hubs, the Government, and industry players.
So far, it has been established that Safaricom, Microsoft, and KCA University will be part of the program.
Let’s also not forget the software factory program (also part of the Digital Masterplan), which has since been launched in Bomet County, and with plans to take it to other places around Kenya to train the youth about software development.
Lower call rates
Reduce the cost of calls and data to allow wananchi, and especially the youth, to use online platforms for entertainment, information, and business – KK Manifesto
The telco market in Kenya mostly favours Safaricom thanks to its wider customer reach and robust network coverage. This has made it the go-to carrier for Kenyans and has come to the expense of small players who are struggling to appeal to their customers.
There has also been the issue of call termination rates, which have been going through discussions over extended periods but have since been settled. Termination rates mostly ensure that customer pay favourably when making calls, but there are cases where the scales tip in favour of a dominant player.
For example, data shows that 95% of Safaricom’s total traffic is on-net and only 5% is off-net, while for Airtel, 80% of its total traffic is on-net and 20% off-net.
The total off-net traffic for all operators for that period was 1.7 billion minutes. Of these, 1.4 billion minutes were off-net traffic from Airtel to Safaricom.
This clearly indicates that more than 80% of the industry’s total off-net minutes flow toward Safaricom’s network.
Moreover, this means that for every one minute received from Safaricom, Airtel sends 2.8 minutes to Safaricom.
Thus, the bulk of off-net traffic moves in the direction of Safaricom, making Airtel the net payer of interconnection dues. The same happens for Telkom Kenya.
The outcome is that Safaricom not only reaps heavily from a high share of on-net traffic at 95% as said above but also is the net beneficiary of MTR pay-outs by both small operators.
The CA had recommended that termination fees be reduced to KES 0.12. However, the value was raised to KES 0.58 as of August 2022.
If further interventions are made and the rates go lower, then KK will have achieved the goal of reducing phone call bills for Kenyans.
Presidential Advisory Council
The Ruto government promises that it will establish a Presidential Advisory Council on Science and Technology Policy.
This will see that there is a governmental approach to technological development and use, as well as building the necessary capacities across the government.
The modern and futuristic city, which is based on sustainability, has not been left by the state.
Its construction started back in 2016, following an investment of KES 1.2 billion by the Kenya government.
In the same year, the South Korean government announced that it would set up a KES 10 billion university in the city.
Following collaborations with the likes of KEPSA and the running of a STEM boot camp a couple of years ago, Konza finally launched The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in 2019.
In 2020, a Startup Bill was set up to lure additional investors into the city. Part of the bill suggested that Konza was looking forward to investors dedicating more than USD 3 billion. It was suggested that some investors were avoiding Kenya for other places with friendly investment packages.
After building the first data centre earlier on, Konza built a second one (Phase II) in 2021, and when it goes fully operational, it will be the largest in East Africa.
Not much has been done in 2022, but we expect the spirit to continue in the following years following Ruto Government’s commitment to the technopolis:
The administration will strengthen Konza Technopolis to bring together industry, academic institutions, and other innovators to co-invest in emerging technologies to create high-quality jobs that leverage artificial intelligence, robotics, and other technologies and thus enhance our regional and global competitiveness – KK Commitment
Most of these promises will be financed by the Universal Service Fund kitty, which is topped up by telcos in a bid to avail connectivity to underserved and remote regions in Kenya. A total of KES 40 billion will reportedly be used.
There are other ICT-related commitments in the manifesto, including plans for the creative economy, music, and film. We will cover that in a different story.
We would like to know if any of these commitments make sense to you, and what you think should be done to ensure that the KK government lives up to its word.