BY BOB COLLYMORE
Whenever I set out to speak on a subject that I am passionate about, I always begin with some context. The first element of which is to state, that I am a strong believer in the Kenyan ICT story. A story that has its roots, 15 years ago this year, when retired President Daniel arap Moi signed in to Law the Kenya Communications Act of 1998. This single action was the beginning of the shift from the tightly controlled and largely inefficient ICT sector that characterised the late 90’s to the fully liberalised and competitively robust telecommunications sector that we see today. It transformed the role of ICT from being the preserve of the wealthy and connected Kenyan to that of being an indispensable component of daily life in Kenya.
Ladies and gentlemen, I posit without any hesitation that of all the economic reforms that have occurred in the last couple of decades, the liberalisation of the communications sector, has perhaps had the most positive and catalytic effect on the growth of Kenya’s economy over the last 15 years. I say this, because it is through the expansion of the communications sector,
” that we have empowered SME commerce that links rural and urban communities,
” that we have connected communities that were previously marginalised by their geography; and
” that we have most importantly, made life changing information and knowledge available at the touch of a button to over 30 million Kenyans.
The aspiration to be a top 10 global ICT hub is anchored in our national development blue print, Vision 2030. It is a very external facing aspiration, one that says to the rest of the world, “we are ready to compete with you on the global stage to not only attract ICT centric investment in to our economy , but to be the source of life changing innovation”.
Beyond the just warm sentiment of the Vision 2030 ambition, we must take a dispassionate and introspective view of the status quo with respect to ICT uptake and investment within the country. This is primarily due to the fact that as country we cannot be seen to be marketing that which we do not consume or promote amongst our own people.
As things stand today the Global ICT Development index compiled by the ITU
(International Telecommunications Union) ranks Kenya as number 114 in the world behind its African peers Egypt and South Africa who are ranked 83rd & 91st respectively. So as far as Africa is concerned, the only thing to fight for is to get ahead of those two countries. The IDI is a global benchmark of the information and communication status and uptake in 160 countries across the world. The IDI utilises a number of globally agreed indicators that can be clustered in to the following three categories that largely revolve around i) access to, ii) usage of and iii) skills available to fully exploit information communication technologies.
From our IDI ranking it’s clear that we have some work to do to become globally competitive as an ICT Hub.