Why Ndemo needs to convert his soldiers

December 15, 2008
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, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 15 – Dr Bitange Ndemo, Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Information and Communication has a very huge task of convincing Kenyans that the country’s technology sector can be as good as the West, that we do not need to look further for exceptional services.

The PS has a Jambo.co.ke account that works, not like other officials that use yahoo. He responds to questions sent via email, and participates in technology forums for the youth and talks to them as a lecturer, not a technocrat.

But the PS has one problem; he is busy preaching technology to others and has forgotten to convert his soldiers, the people working under him.

Dr Ndemo has been keen on the issue of virtual national resources and why Kenyans need to take up their online rights. One of the resources is the .ke domain. It is the equivalent of a flag on the internet, alerts people of your nationality or where you operate the services. For instance, www.capitalfm.co.ke shows that Capital is Kenyan, though it is addressing a global audience online.

Some countries like the United Kingdom have managed to convince most corporations to take up .uk. There are six million .uk domains while Kenya has a paltry 9,000 registered .ke users.

That is the reason why Dr Ndemo is working hard to promote the uptake of .ke in every sector.

The PS has been quoted saying that the government is ready to subsidise the acquisition of .ac.ke and .sc.ke accounts for academic institutions if the cost of the domains is reduced.

The PS has gone further to encourage Kenyans to buy the .ke domain in order to build Kenya.

But Dr Ndemo’s message on the .ke domain is fatally defective because he is yet to convert those under him who are still operating .com accounts. Let the PS and his officers demonstrate the faith they have in these resources before converting the public.

For instance, Paul Kukubo, CEO Kenya ICT Board, who is supposed to be Dr Ndemo’s interpreter of the technology gospel operates www.paulkukubo.com while Al Kags, a program officer at the board operates www.alkags.com.

Picture this; Dr Ndemo at a public meeting, telling people the essence of buying local domains and promoting local businesses, and Mr Kukubo takes the stand and convinces you that a .ke is as good as a .com.

So, why is he not using it?

Last month, the Kenya ICT Board held a one-day meeting on local content, dubbed "Tandaa".

The meeting brought together the government, ICT technology experts and the public to discuss issues of generating local content and developing the local technology capacity.

Few days before the meeting kicked off, there were questions raised about the ICT Board’s decision to host the www.tandaa.com content abroad. How can the board encourage people to host locally while it has no faith in local hosting services?

Mr Kukubo defended the decision, saying that if any local host was willing to give free hosting, the board was willing to migrate the site to a local server. He further argued that to develop locally, you do not need to host locally, arguing that even the laptops and email applications we use are manufactured elsewhere.

The defense merely philosophical as it sounds, does not address the root of the issue.

How does a body that is tasked with marketing Kenya as a technology destination, opt to host abroad? Why then do we have the Board if not to demonstrate Kenya’s ability to perform like other countries?

How can the Board convince a local or multinational corporation to host locally while it has no faith in such services or does not see the need to encourage people to host locally?

Even if the Board was hosted free, it should be its primary mandate to insist that any hosting must be local, that is the only way services can improve. Not unless the board expects the hosting services to grow overnight without being tried and tested.

In the US, where hosting services are cheap, people started with trial and error and finally they perfected the services. When will Kenya grow if no one wants to give local techies business?

It has been argued that the techies have to prove their ability before Kenyans can have faith that services are consistent and stable. But who will give them the chance to prove themselves if the ICT marketing agency is shipping services abroad.

The messages are contradictory and it is better if the PS ensured that the whole ministry and all attendant agencies are singing from the same hymn book or reading from the same script.

Charity begins at home!

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