Kenya: On track towards Tech innovation target

Coders working at iHub Kenya. PHOTO/ihub.co.ke

By Jeff Wanjohi

American technology magnate Bill Gates once said: “The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.”
In Kenya, that tomorrow is already here, with more than 30 million Internet users recorded by last year, up from about 6 million in 2010, according to available online statistics.

Kenya’s Internet penetration has become the envy of every other country on the African continent.
The country’s 70 percent Internet usage is much greater than that of all of its 5 neighbors in the East African Community put together.
According to an Internet world stats website, this translates to more than 30 million users against, for instance, only 18 million for Tanzania and Uganda combined.

Remarkably, Kenya is now even said to have a higher Internet penetration than some of the European countries such as Greece.

According to the most recent Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) statistics, there has been an increase of almost 20 percent in terrestrial wireless data subscriptions since the same period last year, and an extremely impressive growth of 113 percent in the satellite data subscriptions also during that time.

This Internet penetration has also helped to lay the foundation of Africa’s “Silicon Savannah“, which has been essential for technological innovation and attracting international high-tech investment and interest.

Disrupt Africa, a website which monitors Africa’s startup infrastructure, last year demonstrated that Kenya’s technology startups chalked up more than KSh4.7 billion (US$43 million) in funding from several investment calls.

Digitization

Kenya’s Information Communication Technology (tech) innovation sector is not only for entrepreneurship, it has also been integral in efforts aimed at moving the country forward.
This is clearly evident in the increased digitization of service delivery across the various platforms, which include those meant for the provision of government services.

This impressive development, by any standards, has been made possible through increased convergence of government services online, the introduction of digital signal television, and the upscaling of utility billing that is now readily accessible on the mobile phones and on the e-Citizen platforms, among other areas.

Also, according to the 2015 Kenya Economic Survey, the tech sector in the country was worth a whopping KSh138 billion (US$1.26 billion) in 2014.

The Kenyatta administration launched Enterprise Kenya, an initiative that is supporting and strengthening the tech entrepreneurship ecosystem in the country.
Indeed, the “digital duo Uhuruto”, as the President and Deputy President William Ruto are often referred to, have since their election in 2013, made some headway in the efforts to digitize Kenya into a fast world, with the use of advanced technology.

The move to zero-rate imported tech hardware has encouraged Kenyan entrepreneurs and businessmen and women to fully invest in the industry in a bid to improve access to products and services. This has, in turn, spurred the impressive growth of the gross domestic product (GDP), that stands at 5.9 percent last year – almost double that of the global average.

Knowledge-based economy

The future investment will be in promoting homegrown solutions such as in hardware production.

In recognition of this remarkable progress, in 2015, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) honored President Kenyatta with a prestigious award for promoting the use of tech solutions for sustainable development, during a ceremony at the United Nations headquarters.

Kenyatta has reaffirmed his commitment to mainstreaming innovations and tech to enable the envisaged remarkable growth and development of the country and the whole region.

Kenya’s tech Master Plan and National Broadband Strategy outline the desired path to a knowledge-based economy where technology underpins service delivery, and provides the bedrock for the required activities in critical sectors of the economy, especially agriculture, health and education.
Kenya is well on its way to becoming the town square for innovation in Africa and beyond.

Jeff Wanjohi is an online communication consultant based in Nairobi, Kenya. The original version of this article was published in The Daily Nation.