Kenya ICT Masterplan to be launched tomorrow

The Kenya ICT Board is set to launh Kenya’s four year ICT master plan. It projects that by 2017:

  1. Every citizen, resident, home and institution will be connected through a countrywide robust, accessible and affordable ICT infrastructure.
  2. Kenya will become the leading ICT HUB in Africa attracting leading global players and generating globally respected local entrepreneurship and innovation.
  3. Public Services will be available to all citizens through ICT and ICT will enable a truly open and efficient Government delivering meaningful value to citizens.
  4. Kenya will be a Knowledge Based Economy. All Kenyans will be able to use ICT to improve their knowledge, businesses and livelihood. ICT will contribute greatly to Kenya’s economic growth.

I am sure we have heard such lofty plans of where we will be in four, five, ten thirty years and it is great to have such projections but I have an issue with the opening statement on page five:

“Access to information is a basic human right that every citizen should have and every Government is obliged to deliver. It is vital for the efficient delivery of public services as well as capacity creation in the private sector industries, which are responsive to the needs of citizens and businesses.”

Has Kenya decided that access to information is a human right? Well, I am sure water and energy provisions are basic human rights in Kenya but we all know how the story goes. But this is a good thing for the tech industry, it means we can demand access to ICT services at lower rates, because its a basic right, that even those living on a dollar a day can access.

During the ITU International Telecommunication Treaty negotiations in December, one of the contentious issues was “access to information as a human right” some governments- majority Arab nations thought that ICT had nothing to do with human rights and that rights were taken care of in other treaties. The west and the sympathisers had alternative views and that is why the ITU meeting was still born, its didn’t go beyond paragraph one, the West could smell defeat and they bolted.

Kenya had originally taken the “Africa position” which was aligned with the Arab nations but Bitange Ndemo, PS in the InfoCom ministry changed all that by taking the more progressive side, which the West had also  taken and the ensuing problems between the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) and the PS were unfortunate.

So, the admission that Access is a basic right in Kenya settles some of those problems and sort of proves that the CCK was misplaced in its support of certain treaty clauses.

Back to the master plan…

The document promises real economic growth, I wonder if there is anything like fake economic growth. It also promises all those lofty things that come with economic growth, employment, business growth etc….

It sounds like what the board said about the BPO industry….. five years later, no one wants to talk about BPO, people want to talk about things that are more successful like software development, ICT hubs, co-working spaces, etc.

There is this part:

“We are strengthening governance and increasing engagement with Government and with Private Sector to remove barriers that would impede execution.”

Then there is this one:

“This plan centers on the needs of the citizen to ensure all efforts are designed to address those needs and truly deliver a society built on knowledge.”

Now, I am at odds with those two statements. I will borrow heavily from Phares @kaboro who the other day educated me on the process it takes to set up a limited liability company, have a lawyer sort out the shareholders agreement, to make sure no one swindles the other and to make sure that the company starts off nicely. In Kenya, this whole process with cost dearly and that is before you start looking for office space. In Texas, which is the most expensive in the US, this process takes $300 approx. ksh. 25,000.

So, if the ICT Board was serious about the two statements and making sure that they resonate with people like Kaboro, the next statement should have been that they are in negotiations with the Law Society of Kenya, KEPSA, KAM, etc, to make sure that the bottlenecks that hinder business now are sorted, not six years to come, now.

By the way, when I asked a lawyer about a limited liability company, he took a pen and paper and as soon as the figure hit ksh 200,000 I took the easiest option but then that means that the company can not do business with certain governmental bodies that require limited liability company. I am sure many of us know that there are various types of liability company structures 🙂 A normal company registration can cost you as little as 25k and can go to unlimited levels depending on lawyer, if you need agreements to be done, that lawyer to review your initial agreements with landlord, client etc. A company limited by guarantee, which is what most NGOs opt for, costs you about 200k because statutory deductions are higher, has to go to NSIS for vetting etc, then you can add the other shareholder stuff. But that can be well discussed in another post 🙂

But we can all be consoled:

“Earlier drafts of the plan were validated globally in the USA, UK, Singapore, and South Africa among other countries and learnings incorporated. Beyond this a local citizen engagement exercise was carried out over a period of one month and feedback incorporated. All this was done to ensure that every possible input would be considered to enable delivery of a holistic plan.”

I am not sure whether @kaboro attended these sessions to give his views, but we can assume that we will be on the development path, just like the countries that the master plan benchmarked with. I am sure that the big businesses have their challenges too but for tech start ups, Kaboro hits a fundamental note.

The study talks about Konza Tech City and all the goodies that come with it and the several pillars through which the plan will be implemented. Here are some of the objectives:

The key objectives Connected Kenya Master Plan will meet include:

  • Driving creativity and enabling innovation among businesses and individuals
  • Connecting businesses, individuals and communities and giving them the ability to harness resources and
    capabilities across geographies through Digital Inclusion
  • Becoming the conduit for Kenya to be an exporter of Technological Innovation

In meeting the Master Plan objectives, Connected Kenya Master Plan will drive the following focal areas: 

  • Formulation of Policy for the Development of ICT Infrastructure
  • Promotion of Equity in the Provision of ICT in Kenya
  • Development of Film and Information Content towards the Creative Economy
  • Contribution to making Kenya a Middle Level Economy through IT Enabled Services
  • Improvement of Universal Access to ICT Services
  • Facilitation of Development of Skilled Human Resources for the ICT Sector
  • Dissemination of information to the public

 

Paul Kukubo, CEO, ICT Board

The team that worked on the master plan have done a good job, the lay out and the photos are great, but the content leaves me feeling like it is all that I have heard Paul Kukubo and company at the ICT board say in the last five years. The team at the the ICT board knows the sector well, and with resident experts from Accenture and Dalberg among other international ICT consultants, I would not expect anything less.

The document hits all the right notes, if you are a new comer, but if you have been in the industry and listened to how Kenya would overtake Singapore, Mauritius, South Africa, India and the famous South Korea, this is routine stuff.

By the way, tech experts should lay off the South Korea vs Kenya in 1969 analogy, its embarrassing.

Maybe the master plan wasn’t meant for me, and maybe it will be argued that the plan is meant to guide not do but for once, can’t we just do and then plan and regulate later. The over used Mpesa comes to mind, product was developed, used and government had to think of ways to regulate.

I would be more interested if the board facilitated techies to access government data, even dummy data, to test services instead of planning how to. I was at the iHub the other day and listened to a developer narrating how he had gone to the registry of persons, seeking identity card data, even of dead people to test and it was rejected, the developer even asked for dummy data but by the time you get there, the registry can just as well ask you to come up with your random data.

The ICT board is good, get me right, it has made some people rich with grants that are not strictly monitored, some people took the grants and skipped town while others had their dreams come true but after five years, don’t tell me that out of thousands of companies started out in Silicon valley and only a few made it, do something.

Tandaa grants started in 2008

A good plan it might be, but I want some of the simple services, like a search on the companies registry website, I did this article a while ago and today I did a search and no much help either, do we need a plan to fix such basic services? If you fix the search for company names, it will help ease congestion and time will be used for more innovation 🙂

 

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