CS Owalo steps up bid to strengthen country's digital infrastructure

ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo takes, Calvins Miheso a Form4 blue student at Maseno school, through a computer routine as he opened the computer laboratory at the school on July 5, 2023. [Michael Mute, Standard]

The government has intensified its bid to expand installations of critical infrastructure to support a digital economy across the country.

According to ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo, the government has adopted a multi-faceted approach to revamp the country's digital economy through massive investments in infrastructure and policies.

Speaking after launching digital laboratories at Maseno School and Maseno University, the CS said the government is fast-tracking the Critical Infrastructure Bill.

The principal objective of the Bill is to provide a framework for the establishment of the Critical Infrastructure Unit, to protect vital installations, coordinate and strengthen existing government ministries and State departments and agencies.

Through the Bill, the government hopes to strengthen the goal of establishing a vibrant digital economy as part of a wider strategy to transform the lives of Kenyans.

Owalo said the Bill is borne of the fact that critical infrastructure assets are essential to the provision of vital services to Kenyans for their social and economic wellbeing, and which if destroyed, degraded or rendered unavailable, would impact on the social or economic wellbeing of the nation.

"The current happenings and vandalism on critical infrastructure, including but not limited to power lines, substations, off-grid generation stations, repeater stations, data centres, roads and related infrastructure, information, communications and technology sector installations, security facilities and oil pipeline infrastructure call for scaling up of efforts and goodwill towards passing the pending Bill into law," he said.

The CS noted that protection of the infrastructure is critical in ensuring seamless operations around the country.

"Effectively securing the country's critical infrastructure will move us toward the national development goals of the Kenya Kwanza government into transforming Kenya into a digital economy."

Owalo said the digital program being rolled out by the government will benefit at least a million youths across the country each year.

He said the government is establishing digital laboratories in the country to enable the students and the youth acquire digital skills for them to secure local and international job opportunities.

Owalo said the platforms are the best solution in addressing unemployment among the youth.

With formal employment becoming a challenge, the CS said, digital programme would widen opportunities of the youth who acquire new skills, in accessing the job market.

"We are targeting to produce at least one million Youths each year, who are skilled with digital technologies and we are also reaching out to international digital companies to absorb these graduates," said Owalo.

Owalo was accompanied by Gem MP Elisha Odhiambo, South Suba MP Karoli Omondi and Nyanza Regional Director of Education Nelson Sifuna alongside a host of Maseno educationists.

To achieve the digital goal, Owalo disclosed that the government had rolled out a digital superhighway targeting 100,000km with fibre optic cable for Kenyans to access reliable and stable internet conductivity.

"We are not rolling out a digital skilling programme but it is part and parcel of the digital superhighway, which has digital skills and infrastructure and we target 100,000 km to be installed with fibre optic cable," said Owalo.

Apart from the digital superhighway, Owalo explained that 25,000 free WiFi hotspots in markets across the country to enable those operating at the bottom pyramid to access free internet.

Under the digital platforms, unemployment can be addressed and youths can earn up to Sh 200,000 working at home for international institutions.

"Due to scarce formal jobs, the digital platforms present a solution to unemployment of youth. They can work from their homes and earn up to Sh 200,000 which is good money to sustain themselves and their families," he said.

While the youths undergo digital skilling, the government on the other hand would be negotiating with international digital companies to recruit them.

"The only existing job in the world is in digital and the government is committed to supporting youths with digital technologies to secure jobs," he said.

He announced that the country is headed for a digital economy to address unemployment.

The CS added that the digital skilling programme is part of the Kenya Kwanza government manifesto to transform the economy.

"The digital skilling programme is part of Kenya Kwanza's Bottom Up transformative agenda," he said.

Owalo also launched a digital laboratory at St Mary's School Yala.