Sh100 billion Mulot tech plant launched to fight online fraud

ICT Authority Chairman Prof Fredrick Owino during the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the factory in Mulot. [Gilbert Kimutai, Standard]

The mention of Mulot trading centre in Bomet County often invokes the many cases of mobile phone fraudsters that have rocked the county. 

The dusty border town at the banks of Amalo River has recorded several incidents of notorious fraudsters, who prey on mobile phone users and target money transfer platforms to swindle unsuspecting residents.

The Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI), and the Cyber Crime Unit have linked joblessness among the youth to the rampant fraud cases in the area.

According to DCI, since 2016, the centre has been a hub for online fraud.  

On March 8 this year, more than 2,000 SIM cards, 15 mobile phones and a register with names of victims were impounded, following the arrest of five suspected swappers –aged between 20 and 22 years.

Another group of seven, all from Mulot, was arrested in Kabete, Kiambu County, on October 9, 2019, with more than 200 SIM cards and several phones.

Between July 20 and 24, 2018, five suspects were arrested and 2,160 unused SIM cards, 44 used cards, five agency till numbers and three mobile money record books were recovered from them during an operation by DCI officers in Mulot Central.

The “swappers” operate from secluded rental housing units, homes and at times, in the expansive thickets of Narok West constituency to avoid detection and arrest.

However, this is about to change after the government and the Ministry of ICT, Innovation, and Youth Affairs launched a software plant in the area to tap the youth skills, who have been linked to online criminal activities.  

On Friday, the ICT Authority held a groundbreaking ceremony for the Sh100 billion plant, urging the youth to come out and utilise their skills.

Presiding over the ceremony, ICT Authority Board chairman Prof. Fredrick Owino on behalf of  ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru, said the government had noted the talent and potential of the local youth.

“The decision to set up the plant is because of the potential and creativity by the local youth, which needs to be tapped to help on developing software that can be consumed locally,” said Prof. Owino.

ICT Authority Board chairman Prof. Fredrick Owino unveils a plague on behalf of  ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru. [Gilbert Kimutai, Standard]

He said the plant is part of the Digital Master Plan launched in April, this year, which will see two software factories set up in the country.

“Bomet and particularly Mulot is lucky to host the first factory thanks to locals youth who have caught the attention of stakeholders,” Owino said.

ICT Authority Chief Executive Officer Dr Kiprono Rono said the skills that have been displayed by the youth in Mulot were impressive.

Dr Rono narrated an incident early this year, where a group of youth from Mulot tried gaining access to the Ministry of Education website.

Rono said besides the popular mobile fraud that is common in the area, there is a lot of technology know-how among local youth, noting statistics revealed that leading computer scientists in the country had been traced to Bomet county.

“There is a potential in this area and the government seeks to employ up to 100,000 home crown software engineers from the plant,” Rono said.

He said in the next 20 years, they hope to ensure the plan would be competing with other international cooperation in churning out online applications.

Bomet Governor Hillary Barchok said the youth involved in online fraud should not be condemned.

Barchok said the software plant was a platform for them to put their talent to good use.

“Let us now use our skills rightly by coming out and embracing the plant,” Barchok told the youth.

He also used the opportunity to dispel claims that it was a trap by the government to lure them out of their hideout so that they will be arrested. “Some may think this is a bait so that you get arrested, which is a lie. We want to tap your skills and help you grow,” he said.

 ICT Authority CEO said the plant is expected to be up and running in the next 3 years. He noted that apart from churning out engineers, the plant will help in enhancing government service delivery through training.

Rono asked locals to embrace technology saying in the future all government services will be digitized and there will not be personal contact.

Bomet East MP Beatrice Kones also lauded the move.

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