This week, ICT private and public sector bigwigs are meeting in Mombasa, in the annual talkshop knows as Connected Kenya. This year, the conference had five themes that you can read from Martin Gicheru.
Like many or a few who are here on holiday, I was planning to enjoy my time in Mombasa by playing golf, walking on the beach, networking and having a good time like other high society people.
I have been listening to sessions and I must confess that I am a bit underwhelmed by the quality of the discussions, yes, its a talkshop but I think its time the format needs a bit of changes and jiggling.
Currently, sessions take place at one big hall and the level of interaction is not that high, yesterday morning sessions did not take questions from the participants but later on they did.
Then there are Fireside Chats that I am not sure how people are invited. These chats take place at 11 in the night and are expected to spur debate among the high level execs and attendance is by invitation only. I am told here, they serve single malt whisky or water, its high society stuff and I am not making this up 🙂
In these Fireside chats, people are honest and discuss problems and possible solutions but with the rules of talk shops, no one is allowed to provide practical solutions. For instance, Mbugua Njihia an expert on conferences and pitching business found himself in trouble with Andrew Lewela of the ICT Board when during a Fireside Q and A he suggested that he had a solution or could work together with MPs from marginalized areas to provide better connectivity. Lewela felt that was not the forum for pitching business but others prevailed on him to allow Mbugua and the MPs to explore ways to work together.
So, what should change?
1. Have break out sessions
Yes, its good to sit in one room but we all do not have similar interests. For instance, I would have loved a break out session with Dorothy Angote, PS ministry of lands and her team. In this session, they would have updated on the progress of digitisation, challenges and successes, let us admit, we would like to hear how they deal with disappearing files in the digitization process and how this information will be available.
In this session, I would have loved to hear techies, start ups and content providers debating information they would like to get in order to build applications. I would have liked to hear the fears and also hear what industry stalwarts think about the fears.
Then, there is that digitization of the company registry records. I have said so much on this.
Wanjuki Muchemi, Kenya’s Solicitor General is here, and I think he has been thoroughly under utilised. The guy is a career civil servant, for all the fears and aspirations, I am sure he knows what would sail in government and what would fail, put him in the break out session, let us discuss and make use of that experience.
2. Have more tracks
Yes, politicians are important in Kenya but it would be better to have a political track where we can mingle and discuss with politicians but also have another session where businesses can meet and another session where those who came on holiday can discuss drinking joints, where to swim, where to walk etc.
I would have loved a session where SAP, Google, Oracle, Dimension Data can meet smaller companies that paid sh 100k to come here, to speak on how to grow business. Yes, competition is key but some of these do not directly compete, I just want to grow my business and some of the guys here have a lot of experience that can help some of us grow businesses.
3. Provide the government plan, roadmaps, etc
I am sure there are participants who expected to know what is the government plan, what is in the works, the timelines and something that will allow us to monitor next year and see what has been done. This way, we all can plug in wherever we want.
4. Vision 2030
I saw Mugo Kibati here but I haven’t heard much of the vision, what has been achieved and what hasn’t. I think they are killing this vision story and I am not sure what they are replacing it with.
How will we make sure that Mugo does not keep presenting the same slides and saying the same things in all meetings? We need to know where we are at.
5. Research and statistics
This is our strength or our weakness. How do businesses draw plans and projections if there are no stats? Maybe I am new in this but I thought there should be a research track or a requirement that the governors and county reps should provide some stats but I guess they will say we can find it all in Google.
6. Brief speakers about the topics and what is expected
There was this guy who went on a tangent, and it was clear that he either was ambushed or was not briefed on what the conference was all about. Spoke for 30 minutes on what was a lesson on mining and geology. The topic was on Open Data. That whole session was just way ward, no one seemed to have an idea what was expected.