BY EZEKIEL MUTUA
Greetings from Barcelona, Spain. I am delighted to be in this beautiful historic city again, an important cultural centre and a major tourist destination with a bountiful heritage where I\’m attending the Mobile World Congress 2011.
This is one of the foremost global thought leadership conferences. Kenya is in this congress by right, having entered the league of the leading nations of the world to be recognised for their use of mobile telephony to spur economic growth and prosperity.
Like last year, the congress is showcasing the very latest developments in mobile products, services and initiatives. Last year\’s congress was a particularly noteworthy one for Kenya. It was at that event that the innovative M-PESA money transfer service initiated by Safaricom was described as a "legendary innovation" by Rob Conway, Chief Executive Officer of the Global System Mobile Association (GSMA).
Kenya got the singular honour of being awarded the Global System Mobile Association Government Leadership Award for 2010, thus entering the league of the Big Five world-wide. This prestigious award recognises a government\’s world class leadership in telecommunications policy and regulation. In other words, the milestones Kenya has made in the telecommunications field, particularly in mobile telephony, were and are being celebrated as world class.
There has been tremendous development in the mobile sector since Kenya won the coveted award last year, including M-Kesho, the "Super Bank Account" from Safaricom and Equity Bank. What\’s more, Britain is reported to be adopting the mobile money transfer model that has been so successfully trailblazed by Kenya.
The theme for this year\’s GMSA Congress is "The Leading Transformation". Today the world and its six billion denizens (the greatest number of humans that has ever been alive and is interconnected at the same time since the creation) now live, communicate and transact business through ICTs.
The ubiquity of the Internet and its seamless connectivity with mobiles and many other devices and applications is producing denizens of this world who are also netizens (citizens of the Internet). Many of the world\’s foremost netizens are gathered here in Barcelona, some 50,000 invited guests from 200 countries, surely all the nations of the Earth, to discuss the mobile future.
And Kenya is very much a part of that mobile future with over 20 million users. A number of Industrial Revolutions have left us behind, the first one having happened before we were a nation and the next two having occurred before we could see any light at the end of the tunnel of neo-colonialism and underdevelopment.
However, with the Government\’s ambitious Vision 2030 blueprint for achieving the Middle Income Country status by that date, Kenya is poised to never again be left behind by the cutting edge developments of any other Industrial Revolution.
Kenyans are today taking to ICTs like ducks to water. For instance, last year\’s national referendum on the new Constitution was conducted to European Union standards in terms of voting and use of ICTs to deliver the result in a timely manner.
The forthcoming Malili ICT city will put Kenya firmly on the path to the future. This 21st Century techno-polis will permanently connect Kenya to the rest of the planet, removing the barriers of time and distance and bridging the digital divide that exists between town and countryside. What\’s more, it will direct human traffic from the city centre to the outskirts and create millions of jobs.
The Kenyan Government has acknowledged the potential of ICTs to help grow a knowledge-based economy, as evidenced by its ICT Sector Plan, for almost a decade now. The plan underpins the implementation of four major programmes: business process outsourcing (BPO), national ICT infrastructure, e-government strategy and the development of local digital content.
The Attorney General\’s Chambers are a classic case of IT revolution in running the affairs of Government and improving efficiency. The digitised registration of companies, where previously a prolonged and tedious paper trail and paper chase used to meet every inquiry is a thing of the past. Indeed, most Government ministries are moving towards being paperless, something that, less than a decade ago, was undreamt of.
The Government has moved with speed to recognise the fact that advances in technology have their flipside and drawbacks. For instance, the directive by the Government to have mobile phone SIM cards registered is a giant step forward to combating hate speech and phone theft and deterring criminal conduct generally.
For its duration the 2011 Congress has been the best venue anywhere on earth for mobile industry networking, business opportunities and making deals.
Cabinet ministers, top bureaucrats, technocrats, leading personalities from the ICT sector, software and hardware vendors as well as entertainers with a global reputation and audiences have made Barcelona 2011 a Congress to remember.
Going forward, the integration of ICT in the national development planning framework will continue to make major, even landmark, gains in Kenya. The development and documentation of all roadmaps for the implementation of all policies and services will soon become a fully digitised affair.
The Age of Mobile gives every indication of becoming the greatest poverty-reduction Industrial Revolution yet.
The mobile sector features some of history\’s greatest engines of communications and generators of prosperity, the ICTs. Already it has lifted millions out of poverty in countries like China, India and Brazil. The trick is to ensure that electrification becomes a nationwide phenomenon, for ICTs run on power in all their applications.
The writer is the Director of Information and Public Communications of the Republic of Kenya. email: emutua @information.go.ke