Owalo on Kenya Government Digitization Plans and Building a Digital Economy

Owalo on Kenya Government Digitization Plans and Building a Digital Economy

Cabinet Secretary for Information, Communications, and the Digital Economy Eliud Owalo today spoke about the Government's digitization plans and building of a digital economy. Below are his words.

Kenya Government Digitization Plan and Building a Digital Economy 

As the national government, there's nothing that we are going to do that will not be taking place in a given county. The government is the sum total of our 47 counties, and that's why we want to move together with the county government on this digitization journey. This should include bridging the digital divide, empowering marginalized communities, and providing equal access to digital resources and opportunities.

If we leave digitization in the hands of the private sector, then we run the risk of not having universal access because the private sector is driven by profit motive. That's why, as a government, we are leveraging on the Universal Service Fund to ensure that all parts of the country that were not connected by fiber get connected both by fiber and the Internet. This is work in progress.

As part of our digital transformation journey, the digital superhighway, we have embarked on the process of rolling out 100,000 kilometers of fiber, connecting 25,000 Wi-Fi hotspots, and setting up a total of 1,450 digital hubs within villages in each and every ward in this country. We are going to have a digital hub where our youth can undertake digital skilling, and we can connect them to global technological companies for digital jobs. Connectivity is only useful if there is universal access, and that's why we are going the full scope to ensure that all our interventions are cascaded downwards to the lowest levels. By promoting inclusive policies and investing in digital infrastructure, we can create an enabling environment where all Kenyans can actively participate in and benefit from the digital economy.

Under the PPP program, the ministry has adopted a countrywide digital skills training for capacity development that will benefit Kenyans from all walks of life. Let me expound on how critical it is to collaborate. We have three arms of government: the judiciary, the executive, and the National Assembly. As the executive, we are aware that we have to collaborate with the private sector and the other arms of government. Even in the rollout of our digital transformation agenda, we have reached out to the National Assembly for partnerships, and they facilitated the review of the National Government CDF Act. This allows them to utilize up to 3% of the annual allocation of CDF to put in place digital infrastructure. Members of parliament are giving us the facility and infrastructure to deploy the devices, courtesy of the CDF. Our goal is to deploy the devices, facilitate internet connectivity, provide free training for our youth, and connect them to digital jobs.

This demonstrates how important it is to work together. If we can collaborate with the Legislature, we can do it even better with the private sector. In all our interventions, we are looking forward to partnerships with the private sector because the role of the government is not to compete in business with the private sector but to create an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive. That is the philosophy on the basis of which everything we are going to do is anchored. We must have collaborative innovation, and therefore we encourage public-private partnerships, academia-industry collaborations, and cross-sector engagement to drive innovation in digital technologies and artificial intelligence. Everything we are doing must start from the demands of the market and work backward.

Looking at our formal education system, we keep channeling thousands of graduates into the market, and some end up living with us due to a lack of jobs. By being creative in the digital space, we have decided to work backward by determining the demands of the market by way of jobs. In this technological space, we have come up with customized training for our youth in line with the demands of the digital job market. The paradigm shift is that some of these youth start working when they are still learning. We have youths, six months down the line after fourth form, earning up to the tune of 200,000 Kenya shillings and being paid in dollars. This is a paradigm shift that shows why we really need to be innovative and creative to overcome the challenges we are facing as a country including employment.

As opposed to youths moving from the villages to town to look for jobs We are now going out of our way as the government to create jobs right there in the villages in each and every constituency. 

In each constituency, we are going to create a minimum of 1,500 jobs by setting up a minimum of five digital hubs, with each hub capable of generating 300 jobs. This leveraging of technology is going to be a game-changer for this country. We have also reached out to the Council of Governors to partner with us in establishing Wi-Fi hotspots in the market, which will be a game-changer for our mothers involved in the itinerary trade. They will leverage e-commerce in the conduct of their businesses. It is no longer necessary in today's technological world for the buyer and seller of a commodity to have a direct interface. We must be innovative and exploit technology. Innovation is a critical success factor that we have to embrace moving forward.

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