Kenya's digital economy is on the rise, creating decent jobs

Kenya's digital transformation has picked up apace, during the short time the Kenya Kwanza Government has been in office, with the digital superhighway having been identified among the five pillars of President William Ruto's Bottom-Up Economic Transformation Agenda.

As the Ministry of Information, Communication and the Digital Economy, our target of laying out an extra 100,000km of fibre optic is on course with an average 25,000km annually, in our first term.

A 5,000km of fibre optic was set as our target for the period ending 30 June, 2023. The total extra fibre optic rolled out stood at 5,780km.

Through the Universal Service Fund, we are reaching and connecting those parts of the country that have not seemed commercially viable to our private sector partners.

We are providing free public Wi-Fi, with a target of 25,000 hotspots by 2027. Some 14,690 spots have been identified, for installation of Wi-Fi.

Some 194 of the Wi-Fi are in marketplaces and county headquarters, 172 public Wi-Fi hotspots have been installed as community innovation hubs, while ICTA has installed another 95 hotspots totalling 461.

Over the five-year period, we are looking at 1,450 digital hubs. We aim to establish one hub in each of the 1,450 county assembly electoral wards, 290 hubs annually. 174 have been installed.

Digitisation of government records and services is on. The target envisaged was 5,000 services. Today we have identified 15,125 services for digitalisation of which we have fully digitalised 9,887. Another 5,238 services have been partially onboarded.

Our Ajira and Jitume programmes are equipping citizens digitally. In collaboration with technical and vocational training institutes, we purpose to equip one million learners with ICT skills for digital entrepreneurship. We are deploying 23,000 computers in these institutions.

Today, 77 vocational entities have received 6,700 desktops while 8,159 virtual desktops have been supplied to institutions.

On the Ajira Digital Programme, roughly 1.9 million Kenyans have been engaged in the gig economy, an increase from 638,000 in 2019.

Digital marketing and e-commerce training modules to the ministry's Ajira digital skills has prepared 350,794 youth, while we have created 109,000 digital jobs. Enablers in this regard include the 4611 public Wi-Fi hotspots, 22,000km of fibre optic cable already installed, 179 complete and functional innovation hubs countrywide, and the 112 Jitume centres.

To facilitate universal access to smart-enabled telephones, the ministry in partnership with mobile network operators has embarked on local assembly of low-cost digital telephone gadgets at an affordable retail price of USD40 per unit which is soon being rolled out in the Kenyan market.

The National Addressing System is another critical component of the digital economy in which a draft policy and Bill has been developed and 241 blocks mapped out to facilitate e-commerce. The digitalisation and automation of the business of the Cabinet has also been attained effective January 2023.We are pursuing revitalisation of KBC, POSTA and KNA in earnest, entailing upgrading of the infrastructure, re-engineering of the business models; and enhancing staff motivation.

We have established a sector working team to undertake comprehensive review of the policy, legal and regulatory framework governing the information, communications and digital economy.

Meanwhile, four draft policies are in various stages of development and enactment include the National Policy on Public Relations and Communication Management; National Addressing System of Kenya Policy; National ICT Policy Guidelines: 2020; and Access to Information Policy.

The ICTA, the KIMC, the KICA, and the Technopolis Bills are at various development stages, while Cabinet Memoranda ready for submission for approval include a Memo on Revitalisation of the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation; Revitalisation of the Postal Corporation of Kenya; and re-engineering of the Government Advertising Agency.

We are strengthening the risk-mitigation framework around our digitalisation agenda to ensure cybersecurity. The office of the Data Protection Commissioner is now fully operationalised to facilitate data privacy and security.

This will be augmented with ratification of the African Union Convention on Cybersecurity and Personal Data Protection (the Malabo Convention) instrument.

We are setting up the National Contact Centre from which citizens will use digital methods of communication through dedicated contact centre officers, providing 24/7 availability support to citizens seeking to interact with the government.

Equally, we have embarked on institutionalisation of digital signatures to be used by GoK entities to undertake secure authentication of documents and secure transactions.

To facilitate implementation of our digital programmes, we have secured USD 570 million from the World Bank courtesy of the Kenya Digital Economy Acceleration Programme (KDEAP), an offshoot of the World Bank's Digital Economy Moonshot Programme while an additional Sh5 billion has been secured courtesy of the Universal Service Fund (USF).

We have also entered into digital partnership with both the UNDP and the Government of South Sudan.

Our digital transformation agenda will enable us re-engineer our business processes, enhance efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery and create jobs. The digital end-game envisages a paperless government; gig economy; 24-hour economy; enhanced domestic revenues; and sustainable development.

The writer is the Information, Communications and the Digital Economy Cabinet Secretary