State unveils Sh80b digital spending plan for technology sector

ICT CS Eliud Owalo (centre) with PSs Edward Kisiang'ani (Broadcasting) and John Tanui (ICT) during the launch. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

The government has unveiled a plan to spend Sh79.8 billion on a digital acceleration programme aimed at improving Kenya's digital infrastructure and digitising public services at both the national and county levels.

ICT and Digital Economy Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo said the funds that have been sourced from the World Bank will go towards boosting national broadband access and enhancing service delivery.

"The Funding Agreement was signed on June 14th between the National Treasury and the World Bank," states the ICT Ministry in a document reporting on its one-year scorecard.

"Key components funded include broadband access, affordability and quality, digital government services, infrastructure, architecture, data privacy and security," explains the ICT ministry.

The funding will also go towards skills development with the government looking to establish digital hubs in every ward in the country.

Mr Owalo said the government is on course to digitise 7,000 government services, an extra 2,000 that had earlier been targeted by June this year.

"As at June 31, we managed to have fully digitised 5,084 services and we have gone a step further and identified a total of 9,362 services that can possibly be digitised," he said.

"Our proposition is that by the end of the year, all the government services will have been digitised."

He noted: "In terms of prioritisation, we are in the initial stages of targeting those sectors of the economy that are critical for service delivery. These include the Ministry of Health, Lands, and more so the Lands Registry so that we unlock its potential and the Kenya Revenue Authority."

Owalo said the government was also forging ahead with plans to establish a digital identity through which Kenyans will be accessing public services, but stressed that it will be different from the Huduma Namba proposed by the previous administration.

"The Huduma Namba was meant to facilitate the development of an electronic population database," he said. "We need a virtual means through which the government can confirm that you are who you claim to be." "If the answer is in the affirmative, then Kenyans can consume government services from wherever they are without physically visiting government offices informed by one's bio-data and that is the direction we are going."

The Jubilee administration first floated Huduma Namba in 2018 as a digital identifier for Kenyans to access digital services.

CS Joe Mucheru during a television interview back in 2019 said centralising the collection of Kenyans' personal data was necessary to safeguard the private data of Kenyans from being misused.

CS Owalo's presentation was however dominated by concerns about rising threats of cybercrime, with the latest attack on the government e-Citizen service becoming a focal point.

The CS reiterated that the hacking attempt on the e-Citizen platform was unsuccessful and that the private data of Kenyans had not been infiltrated or adulterated.

"What happened was that there was an attempted attack on the e-Citizen platform among other platforms including and not limited to those held in the hands of the private sector but because we already had an elaborate risk mitigation framework around that space it was unsuccessful," he said.

Last week Kenyans were unable to access the e-Citizen platform as well as make bank-to-M-Pesa transactions for several hours. A group calling itself Anonymous Sudan later claimed responsibility. CS Owalo said the State will later this week launch the Kenya National Open University, a virtual university.

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