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Kenya’s ICT Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i on policy priorities & ICT sector investment
What are your main policy priorities?
MATIANG’I: Some of our main policies in the ICT sector in Kenya include, one, to increase internet penetration in the country because however you try to deploy ICT, if there aren't too many people who are able to access the Internet and use whatever services that you are providing, it doesn't make sense to anyone. So our first policy is to try to increase internet penetration. But how do we do that? Through assisting the development of ICT infrastructure. Right now we have in place a national ICT master plan that we are trying to implement, and jointly or closely related to or as a key feature of the national ICT master plan, is the national broadband strategy. In the next 2 to 3 years in my view, when people ask me what are some of the things I would like to see happen in the ICT sector, I know I will tell them broadband, broadband, broadband, because unless we are able to move broadband across the country, then our ICT revolution is going nowhere.
Secondly, is to support innovation, and a lot of the young people who are engaged in the development of new solutions to meet our needs, need to be supported to scale up some of these developments, so that they can create employment and they can increase the use of ICT services in the country.
Thirdly, is how do we deploy ICT to improve services, and again, ICT is not just meant to be deployed for the heck of it. It's intended to change lives because ICT is supposed to be trans-formative, and we in government are supposed to be the leaders in the deployment of ICT not just to meet the needs of our people, but also to develop ways in which we provide services to our people. Recently in Kenya, you've noticed that the government is setting up one-stop shopping centers across the country. So that in each of our counties in Kenya, we are going to have one central place where members of the public can get all their services in one place, and this is going to be on an ICT driven platform.
Fourthly, we want our country or our economy to be a knowledge-based economy. So how do we do this again? To ensure that not just the deployment but the use of ICT is becoming a way of life in the country.
Fifthly, to facilitate all these we have to strengthen the ICT infrastructure in the country. That's why as government we are going to begin rolling out a 4G network to be sure that Kenyans can access faster internet speeds; that Kenyans in all corners of the country are able to get ICT driven services, whatever they are. These are critical issues for the development of our country, because ultimately we are looking at how ICT contributes to job creation, to better services, transparent government, efficient service provision across the board, and most importantly as I said, how this changes our lives.
How does ICT contribute to Kenya’s Vision 2030?
MATIANG’I: In our Vision 2030, our development blueprint, we pointed out clearly that ICT is going to be a critical enabler. The philosophy behind this is that we intend, in the entirety of our public service spectrum, that ICT becomes the underpinning framework and the underpinning infrastructure for the provision of services across the board. Now to do this, we are addressing all facets of it. Through policy, it's good for us to address the infrastructure on the demand side, but we also need to address the supply side of it. And then we develop the requisite skills of our people to be able to not only come up with solutions but also to use ICT.
Ultimately, ICT contributes up to about 2.5% - 2.6% of our GDP, but our focus is to get it to 5%, moving into the future. We are hoping that by the year 2017, ICT will be contributing about 5% of our GDP through the innovations that come up, through cost cutting that's brought by provision of services, and through new products that we provide through the innovations that come up as a result of the use of ICT. Then of course, most importantly, through some of the investments that arise as a result of our effective and efficient deployment of ICTs.
In what ways is the Kenyan government investing in ICT?
MATIANG’I: The government is investing in ICT very heavily, because as a critical driver of our Vision 2030 development blueprint, we are investing very heavily in ICT. First we are focusing on the development of our technology park, Konza, which means putting up the technology park on a 5,000 acre piece of land outside Nairobi. We hope that when we put up the technology park, we are going to create a lot of jobs through the business process outsourcing they do up in there, through the innovations and other investments that come there.
The role of government in that, other than creating the institutional infrastructure that supports it, is to try and mobilize resources to do the infrastructure work that will support the development of the smart city. That means investing resources in roads, doing some work to ensure there is sufficient power, sufficient water, and sewage networks out of that city. We have invested budget resources and we are going to do so consistently in each financial year for the next 5 years, to ensure that the Technology Park comes up.
Beginning this year we are going to begin doing the initial work in phase one of developing the infrastructure that supports Konza. We have already successfully negotiated resources from the African Development Bank, to create a huge dam outside the Technology Park, which is called Thwake Dam, out of which we hope to get 20 megawatts of power. We'll get water to the Technology Park and then this multi-purpose project will also support some irrigation work downstream. Once that is done we will have the power we need, and we will have the water we need. Our colleagues in government, who are in charge of roads and infrastructure, have put aside some resources to develop the road network in the Technology Park. All these are resources that the government is spending to bring up the Technology Park, but that's not the only one.
There are other sectors in which we are deploying resources. The government is putting resources in terms of developing and implementing the facilitating policy and infrastructure for ICT. We worked on the national ICT master plan; we worked on the national broadband strategy, and completed these, and we have assembled resources within government to implement these policies and to ensure that they are in place.
Thirdly and most importantly, we've started other ambitious ICT projects across the government, that are intended to provide the infrastructure and also provide the policy framework for ICT to thrive, or the use of ICT to thrive. The Computers For Schools program, which is intended to create an educational ecosystem that deploys ICT in education, together with the businesses and opportunities that come with it, such as the digitization of content, and developing and migrating content to the digital platform. Even in the broadcasting sector, we are already working on migrating our TV broadcasting to the digital platform; again, providing a huge opportunity for the development of content so that our young people may be involved in the development and production of content that will be broadcast on a wider and much more expanded digital broadcasting platform. So all these are intended to create opportunities for creativity to thrive, opportunities for innovation to grow, opportunities for our young people to create jobs, and to be more meaningfully involved, and most importantly, to migrate our society to the broad spectrum of using ICT to enhance service provision, and transform our economy.