Counties urged to embrace digital changes

Delegates at one of the exhibition stands showcasing county products during the second day of the devolution conference in Eldoret, August 17, 2023. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

County governments have been urged to invest in digitalizing their services for maximum benefits and complete transformation.

Information, Communications, and Digital Economy Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo said that this approach will bolster the counties' economies.

"We do not need to do business the traditional manner. Rather leverage on technology all the way from source of raw materials to the market to enhance efficiency and effectiveness in the production value chain," said Mr Owalo.

The Cabinet secretary called for a departure from traditional business practices and a greater reliance on technology throughout the entire production value chain, from sourcing raw materials to reaching the market. This shift, he explained, would amplify efficiency and effectiveness.

Owalo added that the government has embarked on an ambitious programme focused on nurturing digital skills among young people, enabling them to access online jobs and reducing rural-urban migration.

The CS spoke during the second day of the 2023 Devolution Conference in Uasin Gishu County.

He participated in a discussion centered on defining the country's statutory role and incorporating technology into the county's development plan.

Owalo said through digitization, counties would streamline public offices, allowing direct interaction with citizens over the internet thus bypassing the need for contact with government officials.

"We will eliminate corruption and eradicate unnecessary bottlenecks in service delivery," he said.

Owalo appealed for collaboration between county and national governments to ensure the successful realisation of this transformation.

He added that if this is achieved, Kenya will be poised to become a fully digitalised economy.

Council of Governors, ICT and Knowledge Management chairperson Wisley Rotich said digitising county operations will enhance project development stability.

Mr Rotich, who is the Elgeyo Marakwet governor, said they are ready to support projects, including the provision of fibre optic connections for both private and public entities.

Charges for these connections, he added, would be waived to create an accommodating environment for internet-based businesses.

Henriette Geiger, Ambassador of the European Union Delegation to Kenya, encouraged county leaders to harness digital service harmonisation and integration to redefine relationships between the public and devolved units.

She acknowledged that while digitalization is not a devolved function, it holds immense potential for reshaping interactions between citizens and county officials.

Ms Geiger applauded Kenya for its efforts in connecting citizens to the digital network and called for the extension of last-mile connectivity to include remote areas, thus ensuring equitable access.

"We have, however, continued to see a digital divide between urban and rural areas both in terms of internet access and quality connections," she said.