At the recent Devolution Conference in Kakamega, one thing stood out, besides the conversations: challenges that delegates grappled with in securing accommodation.
The scant hospitality spots saw delegates engage on daily commutes to neighboring counties, for accommodation, entertainment and culinary delights, denying the host county direct revenue and peripheral support to the ecosystem.
Residents with knowledge of the digital economy took to online platforms, listed their homes and facilities for consideration by delegates, angling for a share of the revenue albeit only from individual guests.
Corporate guests, on the other hand, opted for the tried and tested establishments based on previous experiences or existing relationships.
While the extreme end played home to the majority, those that may have had decent facilities but missed out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity seeing as there lacked verifiable data on the hosts, homes or infrastructure for consideration.
This demonstrates the role of ICT as a critical means of shoring up the competitive advantage of businesses operating in the counties.
The ICT Master Plan 2008 – 2018 links counties and the national government on key flagship projects. This includes: the National Optical Fiber Backbone Infrastructure, e-learning and skills development projects (such as the Presidential Digital Talent Programme and the Ajira Digital Programme) and County Connectivity Project.
Though clearly outlined, it is seemingly real that this digitally agile front has been defined by the automation of services, acquisition of fancy devices and installation of new systems; leaving training on basic technology services and consumer awareness on service delivery at the periphery.
We have left the role of basic ICT literacy at the mercy of the citizenry such that they only learn about the place of ICTs when they need it yet this is a key plank to achieve ICT liberation to seize emerging opportunities.
In short, there is yet to be a meaningful service level finding, encouraging and building a culture of learning technology, especially by the citizenry.
While we may argue, in the case of Kakamega,that destination marketing is an individual effort, let us not overlook the place of technology in formalizing business potential and grooming‘informal activities’ into formal enterprises.
Come next year when planning for a similar forum kicks off, I foresee the county as the custodian of vast amounts of data clean it up for use, listing available facilities in order of cost or brand value herewith, within a proximity of 15 or 20 KM from the conference venue.
This data can then help visitors close in on basic information and contact details leading to a website or an aggregated content platform and settle. As a showcase to the development agenda of the county, there is no harm listing the amenities within reach from roads to recreational centres and key selling points of the destination.
Delegates would look forward to being greeted with accommodation options upon registration by the conference organizer, and the county could also rake in some revenue from“Temporary Permits/licenses”.
The point I am driving at here is the need to do away with the individualistic nature of our society and create a connection between vast amounts of data to drive business.
The availability of critical data sets in this instance and possibly several others is a critical element in that it not only avails timely information to the citizens but can also help counties in planning fora tangible population, showcasing opportunities for investment, growth and therefore sustainable businesses.
As a country, we must see the interrelation between basic infrastructure and information as what will propel comparative and competitive advantage of each county. One enabler of this is building on informational evidence through analysis, evaluation and then automation for ease of access; building competencies of both data owner and custodian.
So, as we challenge investors to plow in additional investment in the counties, let consider aiding the process where devolution grows our counties into self-sustainable economic units.
While there was the general consensus at the devolution conference on much-needed focus on infrastructure development, attracting investment and growing trade and manufacturing sectors, deliberations were heavily littered with calls to enhance fund allocation to counties.
However, I was looking forward to pick out ingenious ways to boost revenue. I may not an economist but the contrarian in me insists that even as we seek more funding, we need to look inward. Enabling and growing the bustling enterprise sector is a prerequisite for competitive advantage.
By Kris Senanu, MD., Enterprise division at Telkom Kenya