Kenya’s Digital Agenda: Journey towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution

December 9, 2022 - Reading Time: 4 minutes - By Kennedy Osore

Kenya will be marking its 59th Independence Day on Monday, December 12, 2022. This year’s Jamhuri Day Celebrations, dubbed “Innovation Jamhuri Day,” will focus on technology and innovation. A departure from prior years’ celebrations, this year’s Jamhuri is poised to look back at Kenya’s digital strides and what the future holds.

Kenya has made remarkable progress in driving its digital transformation journey. The country’s digital transformation journey began in earnest during former President Mwai Kibaki’s regime in 2002. The National ICT Policy of 2006 set in motion much of the success Kenya is currently experiencing.

With the Kenya Digital Economy Blueprint of 2019, the country set itself an ambitious strategic framework to exploit the potential of the digital economy and consolidate Kenya’s reputation as the “Silicon Savannah”.

Kenya’s digital transformation journey has been marked by some key moments. The following are noteworthy:

  • Launch of Kenya’s eGovernment Strategy – 2004
  • National ICT Policy – 2006
  • Launch of MPesa – 2007
  • Launch of Vision 2030 – 2008
  • Zero-rated taxation on ICT equipment – 2009
  • Social media uptake – 2012
  • End of zero-rated taxation on ICT equipment – 2013
  • Blockchain & AI Taskforce – 2017
  • Computer Misuse & Cybercrimes Act – 2018
  • Kenya Digital Economy Blueprint – 2019
  • Data Protection Act – 2019
  • CMA Regulatory Sandbox and launch of Blockchain & AI Taskforce report
  • Digital Credit Providers Regulations – 2021
  • Kenya National Digital Master Plan (2022-2032) – 2022
  • Roll out of 5G Network – 2022 

Some of the notable achievements that Kenya has made in the digital transformation journey include:

 

  • Roll out of Kenya’s long-term development plan, Vision 2030 in 2008, with the overarching objective of improving the livelihood of all Kenyans through shared prosperity.
  • The Digital Literacy Program initiated by the Kenyan government in 2013, which aims to transform learning in Kenya, has created awareness of the importance of digital literacy. During the implementation of the Kenya ICT Master Plan 2014-2017, under the Digital Literacy programme, over 1 million digital learning and teaching devices were assembled locally at JKUAT and Moi University. A total of 331,000 teachers were trained on ICT integration, while 93,009 teachers were trained on utilising ICT devices.
  • Non-digital infrastructure programmes, such as electrification, have been critical to Kenya’s journey. For example, the Rural Electrification Programme, which aims to ensure that all Kenyans have access to electricity by 2030, has connected 8.6 million households (many of them rural) to the grid, along with trading centres, police administrative posts, health centres, and all primary schools.
  • Infrastructure investments such as the installation of The East African Marine Systems (TEAMS) cable in 2009 greatly boosted connectivity while increasing competition among existing internet service providers, leading to decreased connectivity costs for users. Furthermore, the government’s 2012 investment in the National Optic Fiber Backbone Infrastructure has ensured that all 47 counties are connected to the national fiber network, further boosting equitable access, particularly in the last mile.
  • Launch of a digital-for-agriculture strategy with a target of registering 1.4 million farming households in an online portal and 2,300 agro-dealers to supply farm inputs to growers by 2023.
  • Private sector players have also made significant investments in their connectivity infrastructure, such as cell towers, further increasing connectivity while concurrently lowering the price of data.

President Ruto’s government has committed to avail universal broadband throughout the country within five years by constructing 100,000km of national fibre optic connectivity network to push the digitalisation agenda further. On the eGovernment front, the aim is to transition at least 90% of government services online. The ambitious plan by the government also includes establishing Kenya as the regional digital hub and promoting the development of software for export.

As noted by the Central Bank of Kenya governor, Dr Patrick Njoroge, in his keynote address at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Barbados Annual Conference 2020, “Kenya has had its successes, but much more needs to be done to fully benefit from the digital economy. Digitalisation is the next frontier for placing citizens at the heart of any nation’s development and more importantly raising their standards of living.”

 

With this in mind, Kenya’s Digital Economy Blueprint was launched in May 2019. The blueprint’s vision is a digitally empowered citizenry living in a digitally enabled society. Kenya’s digital economy blueprint outlines five pillars as the foundation for a thriving digital economy. The pillars are Digital Government, Digital Business, Infrastructure, Innovation Driven Entrepreneurship and Digital Skills and Values.

Despite the achievements made so far, some challenges still abound. According to the Digital Drivers Template: A reflection on Kenya’s 20-year digital transformation journey, some of the notable challenges include:

  • Internet and mobile data costs remain high relative to Kenya’s digital connectivity infrastructure coverage, thus impeding further uptake and usage of digital applications and services.
  • Unreliable electricity, particularly in rural areas, remains a widespread challenge.
  • Digital trust remains low in Kenya and is bound to decrease with cases of cyber fraud, disinformation, and misinformation on the rise.
  • A national addressing system is another persistent obstacle, particularly for the growth of e-commerce.
  • Not all sectors in Kenya are digital or have developed a digital strategy
  • Increased digitalisation has enhanced cybersecurity threats and led to data privacy concerns.

Kenya possesses all of the necessary ingredients to accelerate its digital transformation. It has a young, tech-savvy population with a desire to learn and a well-established government keen to drive the digital transformation agenda. To achieve an inclusive digital environment, Kenya will need to concurrently address the challenges arising from digitisation as it continues to accelerate into the fourth industrial revolution.

The digital transformation journey presents numerous opportunities for collaboration between the private and public sectors. The government is keen to collaborate with stakeholders, policymakers, and citizens to create an inclusive innovation environment that will encourage increased adoption and consumption of digital services.

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