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Kenya should invest in people and harness technology

By James Irungu | December 27th 2019

Kenya is embracing technological disruption in a way that sets it apart from other countries.

This has proven that the machine has come to stay and we are open to embrace it and develop it to its full potential.

According to the World Bank, Kenya has seen its Information and Communications Technology sector grow an average of 10.8 per cent annually since 2016, becoming a significant source of economic development and job creation with spillover effects in almost every sector of the economy.

However, despite many techs and business start-ups giving themselves to the use of technology to better the lives of Kenyans, there is need to come up with strategic measures to address key challenges that we have faced for the longest time as a country, ranging from healthcare, unemployment, urbanisation, and infrastructure.

According to Jumia Mobile Report 2019, almost three-quarters of Kenya's population is under the age of 30 compared, with 46 or 47 years in Germany and Japan.

This youthful population has been the highest consumers of technology while creating an abundant source of talent hungry for opportunities.

To succeed as a country, we need to look beyond the rough edges of the youth and really invest in their readily available talent. This will reap significant rewards to our growth.

New business models

This is the promise that technology holds. It is an opportunity for us to develop new business models and adopt new practices — not necessarily best practices — because the conditions that exist in Kenya require unconventional approaches, and technology allows us to redesign and reimagine new ways of doing business that can drive down costs and keep quality high.

This is a huge solution that technology offers. However, we cannot hide from the fact that we need a well organised structure to harness it.

Wrongly utilised, technology can be the cause of all evil in society. To keep pace with the growth, it will require stronger digital foundations, such as new regulations and policy guidelines designed to support the digital transformation.

Lack of guidance on technology implementation can lead to economic instability. The effects of this are magnified by weak laws and high debt burdens.

For instance, according to the World Bank report, Kenya's telecommunications regulation has struggled to keep pace with the evolving market dynamics and emerging technologies, and that the digital entrepreneurship space faces limited growth-oriented financing and lacks a firm pipeline of digitally-skilled talent.

The report also highlights that Kenya faces a significant digital divide, with 44 per cent of the urban population having access to the Internet, compared to 17 per cent in rural areas. These are areas of improvement

Digital foundation

Building a strong digital foundation will be critical to the country’s long-term success in harnessing the potential of the digital economy as a driver of economic growth, job creation, and service delivery while ensuring that no one is left behind

It is a fact that technology is opening up opportunities to boost digital connectivity, revolutionise agriculture and improve public services.

But the use of this technique is still limited. To realise the potential requires a better understanding of what is available and what it can do. 

Another factor is fostering the partnership between government and businesses that need to make the technology accessible and affordable.

There is, in particular, a huge commercial opportunity for companies that can bring broadband and functional smart devices within the financial reach of mass-market consumers.

Mr Irungu is a PR and communication lead at Vivo Kenya. 

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