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Google maps out Kenya on the web

BUSINESS
By | March 8th 2010

By James Ratemo

The Kenya ICT Board has partnered with Google to push more local content to the Internet.

The partnership, which offers the Kenya ICT Board support worth Sh2.4 million, will result in a sharp increase in the size of the online community in the country and see Kenya inch closer to becoming a knowledge and information economy.

Through meetings dubbed ‘Tandaa Symposium’, the collaboration aims to raise awareness on how the Internet can be relevant to Kenyans and encourage development of more local digital content.

The development comes in the wake of a high profile one-week meeting in Nairobi by a global Internet corporation — the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

ICANN, a non-profit public benefit corporation, is holding its global meeting in Nairobi from March 6 to March 12.

A major boost to Kenya’s growing ICT sector, the meeting is crucial, as it discusses issues regarding the stability and security of the Internet.

One of the topics slated for discussion is the future of the Internet and the innovations that would create new business opportunities in Kenya and across the globe.

Local content is still sparse online despite the landing of undersea optic cables that has seen connectivity charges drop remarkably.

Kenyans are still being bombarded with foreign content due to lack of compelling local content.

The Tandaa Symposium, sponsored by Google, will bring together experts, entrepreneurs, business executives and civil society to explore how to produce more local content for consumption via mobile phones, digital TV and the Internet.

According to Kenya ICT Board CEO, Paul Kukubo, these bi-monthly events will showcase successful initiatives that demonstrate the potential of the Internet for economic and social change.

The events will also offer capacity building for business owners, innovators and community groups and show them how to adopt digital technologies and make use of digital content.

Public enthusiasm

"The Kenya ICT Board and Google believe the event will help generate a public enthusiasm for creating, protecting, using, sharing and preserving content through digital technologies," Kukubo says.

"This is in recognition that Kenya’s digital future depends on its citizens exploiting the opportunities technology offers."

The first event started on Saturday at the recently launched Innovation Hub located at Bishop Maigua on Ngong Road.

Kukubo says the Government and industry view broadband technologies as critical for national and economic development and can assist communities realise the benefits of a true information society.

"Research indicates that one substantial obstacle to attaining a critical mass of broadband users is the lack of compelling applications and content at a local level...the development and enhancement of a structured digital content strategy that supports and enables local digital content development is an idea whose time has come," says Kukubo.

Global statistics show that at least 3.4 million Kenyans use the Internet but the worry is whether they are interacting with local content online or they still are heavy consumers of foreign content.

A quick survey of Kenya’s presence online is quite encouraging. Already, there is a plethora of Kenyan content available online.

"Websites from all professions from health to accounting, law to entertainment provide a valuable resource for the millions of Kenyans online. But this is not enough," he says.

"It is already clear that the appetite for local content is resonant and its continued creation in a structured manner is critical for long-term sustainability."

Through Google’s support, the Kenya ICT Board will bring together local content developers and IT professionals to explore the opportunities and challenges opportunities in developing local digital content through bi-monthly events dubbed the Tandaa Symposium on Local Digital Content.

Public interest

"As we embark on our objective of getting Kenya online," argues Kukubo, "the essential requirement of this partnership is to get Kenyans to understand that this is in the public interest and common good."

"Working with Google, we aim to look into how communities can use emerging technologies to enables community voice, preserve our culture and bring together all the content that supports them in making informed and wise choices."

Joe Mucheru, Regional Lead for Sub-Saharan Africa, Google says, "We hope that through this partnership, we can educate Kenyans on the opportunities the Internet offers and that in the end, we will see Kenya producing more local content and competing at a global level."

The ICANN meeting is hosted by the Kenya Network Information Centre (KENIC), which aims to institute a local non-profit organisation to operate and manage the Internet resources allocation and registration services to assist in the development and growth of Internet in Kenya.

KENIC’s manages and operates the delegated domain name space in the interest of the Kenya Internet Community and in respect of the global community interest consistent with ICANN policies.

KENIC, through a partnership with Internet stakeholders, has initiated a number of East Africa Internet Governance Forums.

This stems from the realisation that there is a need to address the limited participation by African stakeholders on global Internet governance debate and process.

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