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How Ajira Digital Initiative has Benefited Kenyan Youth: ICT PS Jerome Ochieng

Jerome Ochieng, the PS for ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs, answers questions from Daily Nation readers.

How has the use of fibre optic internet connection evolved in Kenya? Edwin Sango, Malindi

Broadband has in recent years impacted and transformed peoples’ lives in different ways and continues to shape the modern global economy. The knowledge economy presents a platform upon which Kenya can leverage on new technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data Analytics, Artificial intelligence (AI) and distributed ledgers, which invariably rely on high-speed broadband and data services.

Through the National Broadband Strategy 2018-2023, we seek to reinforce our broadband vision, which is to be a globally competitive knowledge-based society enabled by affordable, secure and fast broadband connectivity. This will complement, among others, the African Union Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as we embark on the next phase of the Vision 2030 journey – the Medium-Term Plan IV (MTP IV) (2022–2026) and the implementation of the Big 4 Agenda.

Geographically, we are strategically positioned, what has led to investments in several submarine cable systems that land in Kenya. The East African Marine System (TEAMS), the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy), the Lower Indian Ocean Network (LION), SEACOM and the Djibouti Africa Regional Express 1 (Dare1) and the Pakistan and East Africa Connecting Europe (PEACE) submarine fibre optic cable systems connect our region to the rest of the world and provide high-speed internet connectivity. Through these submarine fibre cable systems, we have access to total capacity in excess of 300Tbps, the net effect of which is that as we move towards an increasingly digital work-style and lifestyle, we can deliver fast, affordable broadband connectivity to consumers.

How has growth of ICT supported President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda? Lucy Muthee, Nairobi

The government has leveraged on ICT to revolutionise service delivery to citizens. ICT continues to play an important role in the realisation of the Big Four Agenda. This is through the provision of requisite ICT infrastructure such as the National Optic Fibre Backbone that facilitates ICT connectivity, data centres, digitisation of government services as well as technical support through ICT officers in various government institutions.

In the health sector, the ministry is implementing wide area and local area connectivity in all the Level 4 to 6 hospitals in the medium term and all the remaining level 3 and 2 hospitals in the long term. The ICT ministry in conjunction with Ministry of Health is implementing an enterprise-wide solution to facilitate the automation of health services, which will all be processed and managed locally.

In the manufacturing sector, the ministry is providing connectivity to all special economic zones, including Konza, Dongo Kundu, Kinanie and Naivasha. A modern national data centre is also available at the Konza Technopolis for investors to leverage on and access state-of-the-art computer and storage services. These investments have been made to provide a conducive operating environment for investors and accelerate economic activity.

In the agricultural sector, the ministry in conjunction with that of Agriculture is implementing digital solutions that encourage data-driven processes in the agriculture value chain, support farmers with real-time insights and promote data-sharing among the sector players.

How would you rate Ease of Doing Business in Kenya’s ICT sector? Cleophas Mutai, Nairobi

Kenya is now ranked third in sub-Saharan Africa in the latest World Bank Ease of Doing Business Rankings. Digitisation of government services contributed immensely to the improvement in this ranking. Specifically, the ICT sector has attracted huge investments both locally and from the global market. Over the last five years, several multinationals have chosen Kenya as their preferred investment destination, we expect this trend to continue growing.

What kind of policies are needed to promote fair and effective competition in the ICT sector? Cleophas Mutai, Nairobi

The government supports ICT through developing up-to-date, relevant and enabling policy, legal, regulatory and institutional frameworks that emphasise the importance of technology and innovation in achieving Kenya’s strategic goals.

The Ajira Digital Project was set up to empower the youth to access job opportunities. What has been the achievement so far? David Lochero, Chepareria

The Ajira Digital Programme’s mission is to enable a million youth to earn a decent wage from digital and digitally-enabled jobs annually, in the gig and freelancing economy through training and demand linkages. We have so far established over 300 Ajira Youth Empowerment Centres (AYEC) across the country, now re-branded as Ajira Centres, where the youth can access resources such as broadband connectivity, computer equipment, training, mentorship and get support to embark on their journey to finding work on digital platforms.

The ministry is also collaborating with institutions of higher learning to embed the Ajira Digital clubs and curriculum at universities, colleges and TVETS as an additional access point for training, mentorship and online work career fairs. So far, over 300 Ajira clubs are operational in TVETs and universities.

This has allowed the ministry to increase the number of trained youth under the programme from 21,105 in 2018 to over 150,000 in 2022. The programme has also led to an increase in the number of youth working on digital and digitally-enabled jobs from 1.2 million in 2021 to over 1.9 million this year.

We encourage more young people to join the programme through https://ajiradigital.go.ke.

What role can ICT contribute to economic and social development? John Mwambili, Mombasa

As an enabler, ICT will continue to improve market competitiveness of the country’s products and services and boost Kenya’s ranking on the ease of doing business index, further increasing the country’s attractiveness as a destination for Foreign Direct Investments (FDI). We expect to see a greater growth with the increased uptake of e-commerce leading to enhanced cross-border cooperation and regional economic integration, which in turn will result in improved living standards and abridged digital divide.

In what ways are e-government services advancing transparency and facilitating business? Doreen Lagat, Kitengela

Effective E-government facilities facilitate better and efficient delivery of public services, dissemination of information to citizens, promote productivity among public servants and encourage public participation in government activities.

What plans do you have to enhance and encourage innovation in the ICT sector? Bramwell Ondieki, Nakuru

Looking at facilities such as our data centre at Konza, there is much that we can do and achieve. I want to challenge you to set up your start-ups at this Silicon Savannah. As a ministry, our goal remains to facilitate universal access to ICT infrastructure and services all over the country.

Kenya has become the global technology hub of choice when it comes to attracting strategic business activities of ICT companies in emerging markets. Kenya is the regional leader in ICT in East and Central Africa and considered as one of the top innovation hubs in sub-Saharan Africa

Kenya is the top choice for regional headquarters as several blue-chip technology companies operate in Nairobi as the regional HQ for their East and Central Africa and African operations. The ICT sector is private sector driven, though the government has played a major role through investment in infrastructure and provision of incentives for the private sector to invest in the economy.

Kenya’s strong growth prospects are supported by an emerging middle-class and an increasing appetite for high-value good and services. Kenya’s favourable business environment and strong economy has allowed many companies to reduce operation costs and thus growing their profit margin.

What is the position of the ministry regarding the ICT Practitioners Bill (though it was rejected by the President), in regard to the degree certificate requirement for ICT professionals? Bashir Nuru

First, we thank the President for not assenting to the bill. Second, the bill was neither supported by the ministry or by the majority of industry players. The bill in itself did not seek to solve any identified problem and in fact created more. The bill ignored recent developments in the ICT sector that have made Kenya an attractive place for both local and international investors. Finally, the bill contained inconsistencies that would make it extremely difficult to implement. The ICT industry players are happy that the President did not assent to this bill.

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