Favourable ICT policies supported innovations and mobile services

Mwai Kibaki pushed his officials to digitise public programmes and processes in tandem with the adoption of technology in the private sector. [File, Standard]

Former President Mwai Kibaki will be remembered for championing the cause of information communication and technology (ICT) and positioning Kenya as an investment hub for local and global technology firms.

In 2009, a year after ringing the opening bell at the Nairobi Securities Exchange to mark the debut of Safaricom shares at the bourse, President Kibaki launched the long-awaited East African Marine System fibre optic undersea cable.

The 5,000-kilometre cable starting from Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates to Mombasa was a turning point for the country's ICT sector.

“I am directing the Ministry of Information and Communication to come up with programmes for the training and development of youth nationwide, to harness the first generation of digital Kenyans,” said President Kibaki during the launch in Mombasa.

This would be a rallying call that Kibaki would repeat to State officials and the private sector on several occasions, and served to entrench ICT as a leading driver of growth for the Kenyan economy.

In the years that followed, Kibaki pushed his officials to digitise public programmes and processes in tandem with the adoption of technology in the private sector.

Former ICT Permanent Secretary Bitange Ndemo has in the past credited the success story of M-Pesa to Kibaki's administration for allowing public officials and regulators to take risks and make concessions previously unheard of in government.      

This emboldened young innovators and global tech giants alike to venture into the country's nascent digital economy, with the knowledge that the government was now an enabler and not a hurdle.

In 2009, Kibaki directed the National Treasury to zero-rate value-added tax on mobile handsets in the budget. This decision led to an influx of device makers and vendors, with global brands having a strong presence in Kenya.

Kibaki further directed the industry regulator to lower the mobile termination rate, with call charges dropping from Sh8 per minute to Sh3, allowing more consumers on board.

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