Connected Kenya 2023 Kickoff: Media Gag, Local Smartphone Assembly, and Expanded eCitizen Use Cases

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ICT CS Eliud Owalo

The 12th Edition of the Connected Kenya Summit has kicked off. Officially, it began yesterday (April 2), but the press, major guests, and sponsors arrived today. It was officially opened by Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi, who was also accompanied by other key government officials, including ICT & Digital Economy CS Eliud Owalo, his PS Eng. John Tanui, as well as the PS for the State Department of Broadcasting and Telecommunications, Edward Kisiang’ani.

Some key announcements and developments have been made at the summit, but before we dive into those, it’s worth reading more about what this summit is about, its themes, and what it aims to achieve HERE. You can also see who is sponsoring the event here (more than 50 private companies have taken part in this exercise), as well the speakers from various companies and fields such as telecoms and audit firms.

CEO Stanley Kamanguya, and Chairman Sylvanus Maritim – ICT Authority

Connected Kenya is hosted by the ICT Authority, which has collaborated with other members of the private sector to sponsor and host the show in Kwale County over the years. This time around, the ICT Authority reports that it has managed to partner with more than 50 private firms to sponsor the show.

The ICT Authority also has a new management team, including a new Board Chair, Sylvanus Maritim, and new board members. CEO Stanley Kamanguya was appointed before the 2022 polls by former ICT CS Joe Mucheru to replace the then-interim CEO Kiprono Rono and has been steering the Authority to date.

According to CEO Kamanguya, this year’s conference seeks to comprehensively discuss digitization and the use of data for development, as well as elements of data privacy and digital trust (the Data Protection Officer, Immaculate Kassait, will be making her presentation at the show at a later date). The conference will also address the role of the government in digital implementation, not to mention the future of work in the digital economy (as popularized by the Kenya Kwanza administration).

E-commerce cases will also be part of the discussion at this summit, as well as how the government plans to collaborate with academia.

Before his exit, the CEO mentioned that Kenya’s broadband coverage has hit the 43 percent mark and looks forward to tech contributions boosting the GDP from 7 percent to 12 percent.

John Tanui – PS ICT Ministry

In his remarks, PS Tanui, who is the immediate former CEO of Konza City, said that the government has been trying to ramp up service digitization. “We are using eCitizen to drive government digitization,” he said.

eCitizen is a by-product of former Connected Kenya events and has since become the official channel for Kenyans to pay for government services.

Edward Kisiang’ani – PS, State Department of Broadcasting and Telecommunications

According to the PS, Kenya is in the process of making room for hosting the UNESCO AI conference in June.

The PS also mentioned that Kenya is determined to make broadcaster KBC the leading voice for government communications.

Speaking about recent events, including the protests that saw the regulator Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) warn the media to refrain from covering events that go against the programming code, the PS mentioned that the media should be neutral in such matters and should “desist from calling press conferences to peddle rumors.”

“We have no intention of gagging the media. We are not shutting down any media house or internet. We are aware the media plays a key role in reshaping thinking. But it should be neutral. They should not be members of a political party,” said Kisiang’ani.

The media, alongside other parties, had gone to court to challenge CA’s advisory, and the High Court ruled in its favour.

Lady Justice Sewe, on behalf of the Attorney General

The AG was unable to attend the opening of the summit, but his representative, Lady Justice Sewe, highlighted the benefits of technology in the justice system, whose uptake was accelerated over the pandemic.

For instance, technology has been instrumental in reducing litigation costs.

Use cases such as video conferencing have been essential in streamlining access to justice, and technology has also helped the courts preserve documents.

Sewe also mentioned that there has been greater transparency since court proceedings can now be live-streamed.

“Lawyers don’t need to travel to represent their clients; they can do that via videoconferencing. We have now gone paperless, and we have more transparency with digital evidence. But we have to ensure cybersecurity for our information,” said Lady Justice Sewe.

Clayton Naidoo – Kenya Re, CISCO

Cybersecurity firm Cisco, through its Kenya representative Clayton Naidoo, has revealed that it has partnered with the ICT Authority to bring its CPS Cloud Builder Accelerator (CBA) service to Kenya. The two institutions signed an MoU for the development.

Cisco says it has trained 30,000 Kenyans about its services and plans to train 3 million more in the next decade.

George Njuguna – ICT Director, Safaricom

According to Njuguna, more than 18 million Kenyans have received Huster Fund via the Safaricom network, amounting to more than KES 26.4 billion.

He also mentioned that Safaricom’s Engineering Community, which was launched last year with 500 members, has now amassed more than 5,000 members.

Other highlights from his presentation include surpassing 90% in financial inclusion and the fact that 1 in every 10 people using mobile money across the globe is Kenyan.

Cybercrime has also affected the tech industry, and Africa has lost KES 400 billion to it, with more than a quarter of that value from Kenya.

Eliud Owalo – CS, ICT and Digital Economy

According to the CS, Kenya should be ready to host “Connected Africa” in the next three years, with plans to go global in the next half-decade.

He stated that Konza City is likely to host a global ICT conference in 2024 after acquiring the rights to do so.

The CS also reiterated the government’s plan to expand fibre in the country. The goal is to lay 100,000 km of fibre in the next five years, although only 25,000 km have been installed so far.

The government also plans to establish 25,000 Wi-Fi hotspots across the country. These hotspots will target markets to boost e-commerce and bus stations to empower youth.

Additionally, there are plans to set up 450 ICT hubs in select rural parts of Kenya.

The CS also mentioned that more than 4,200 government services have been onboarded onto the eCitizen platform, and that number is set to grow to over 5,000 in two months.

Details: Inside Government’s Digital Super Highway Plan

Owalo also mentioned that the government has contacted private companies to manufacture smartphones in Kenya, and the feasibility studies have already been completed. This means that locally manufactured or assembled phones should be available in the near future, with pricing starting at USD 40 or KES 5000.

HMD Global, which manufactures Nokia-branded phones, will also be assembling some of its phones locally in a plan that seeks to ease budget constraints for people who want to purchase smartphones.

“Collaborative work with local and foreign partners is very important for us in the acquisition of knowledge and technologies, and financial injection into the implementation of these projects. Partnerships, co-creation activities, and joint initiatives are of great importance as we develop a new culture of large-scale cooperation,” said Owalo.

We will be updating you more about key tech events at this summit in the coming days.