When the Kenya ICT Board was set up about two years ago, there was a lot of optimism in the Business Process Outsourcing sector; the board was composed of the “dream team” and who is who in Kenya’s marketing.
The board was tasked with the sole responsibility of marketing Kenya as an outsourcing destination; and many people in the business were hoping that their fortunes will turn around.
So, it was shocking to me when Nick Nesbitt of KenCall wrote in one of the mailinglists “I have just spent a week in the UK meeting with some of the largest outsourcers in the world. They have never heard of Kenya as an outsourcing destination. Very interested now, but completely unaware. We stopped marketing Kenya as a BPO destination before we had built international recognition and credibility, which raises questions in these prospects’ minds about our commitment as a country to making Kenya an outsourcing destination…”
Earlier, Gilda Odera, the chair of the Kenya BPO society had commented to a story I was doing on why the industry had not snapped up a $ 7 million subsidy and said that maybe the BPO subsidy could have been handled better.
When commenting on my questions, Gilda is very brief and its almost hard to guess the real issue. You see once you interview many people, you can almost guess who will say what, and what they mean when they say this. For Gilda to say that there has been no flow of information from the board, it consoled me, it made me believe that am not the only one that the board does not respond to.
Gilda’s response also made me believe there was a problem at the board, no one wants to speak ill about it but for people to talk about failings in marketing and the lack of information, surely there must be something.
For instance; I wrote to the board asking for names of organizations that had benefitted from the subsidy, I wanted to know whether the subsidy was the real problem with the sector, but no answer. I stuck for a week, trying to convince the board to at least answer the questions, even in part; but nothing.
In the end I had to forward the same questions to Bitange Ndemo, the PS and he answered by the end of that day. The question I always ask; how comes Ndemo is always accessible to answer the questions and the board does not? Ndemo is good, he is probably the only PS you can send an email and he will respond with answers bet he needs to convert his soldiers… a song I will keep singing.
Anyway, I also came to realize that am not the only journalist that the board does not respond to; Michael Ouma told me that he even sends texts to the people in the board that he knows, and he gets no responses, so am consoled.
But why would an agency, tasked with marketing, hug its data or be stingy with information?
Back to the question of BPOs, Agosta Liko responded to my article saying that maybe what the industry needed was not subsidy, given that the cost of connectivity has come down; maybe they needed customers. And he is right.
I bumped into Ndemo at an exhibition hall yesterday and he also commented on that piece saying that bandwidth is the last thing on people’s minds, they want to have business, because without clients, they cant pay workers even if they had the fastest connectivity in town.
So, if Ndemo knows this, how comes the board does not know? After all, they are the marketing experts!
Then there is the question of the digital villages, what happened after launching them with all the pomp and color and promising to revolutinalize Kenya? Two years after, am yet to hear of anything else apart from the one opened in Kangundo.
Anyway, I have written all that but I am still not sure what is wrong with the ICT board.
So much promise so little to show!