Electronic trade to soar in Kenya

February 22, 2010
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, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 22 – Local innovators have being challenged to be proactive and come up with Internet content to spur online shopping in the country.

Information Permanent Secretary Dr Bitange Ndemo said on Monday that the country was ready for a boom in electronic trade but added that this would only happen if there is enough demand for such applications.

“We have everything in place so all we require is for you (innovators) to take the risk and get the content online so that this system can enable us to communicate virtually and sell these products,” he said.

In order for Kenya to increase its Internet penetration from the current five million users, the country must embrace and start consuming local content, the PS added.

“We want many Kenyans to move onto the Internet but we cannot do this with content from outside. There are so many opportunities that we can take advantage of,” he said while pointing to the potential that exists in digitising materials in the education sector.

A recent survey by pollsters Synovate indicates that Kenya has two million Internet users on social networking site Facebook. While he said this was a good sign that more people were spending a lot of time on the internet, the PS said there was a need to encourage people to access vital information which would in effect expand economic opportunities for all.

“That way our interface with the rural areas can be improved because we have things from there sold to people in the urban areas who would then sell them to the outside world,” he added.

In a bid to push the private sector to move into local content development, the government has put in place regulations that require broadcasters to have 40 percent of what is aired being indigenous programs.

“It is a shame that 46 years after independence we are getting content from United Kingdom to educate our children via the Internet on science and even our history. That is the beginning of colonisation of our minds. Nobody will love our culture other than ourselves,” he regretted.

As part of the government’s efforts to contribute to local development, Dr Ndemo said all ministries and State parastatals are digitising their records in the move which would reduce the face to face contact and therefore reduce corruption in government offices.

The PS spoke during the launch of a real-time online mobile money payment solution by Interpid Data Systems that enable users to buy and sell products and services from the Internet and pay using their mobile phones.

Interpid Managing Director Steve Nyumba explained that the service dubbed ‘iPay’ is targeted at online owners like those in e-ticketing and enables them to receive their payments through alternative means such as the money transfer service.

“This system resides on a merchant’s website who will then integrate it into his website. The users then don’t have to have a unique account but the can just visit the website and pay for the products through M-PESA and Zap,” he said.

The product, Mr Nyumba said also had the ability to track payments using existing shopping cart software and also enables the owner of the website to collect data on the people doing the transactions.

Website owners will need to pay a one-time installation fee and will thereafter be charged a fee of five percent of each transaction. Mr Nyumba expressed confidence that introduction of their system will contribute immensely towards the growth of e-commerce in the country.

“Many companies have websites that just provide information. With the launch, we are trying to step this further into transactional websites and not just informational,” he added.

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