This is the press release…will comment on it later..

The Kenya ICT Board is pleased to announce the launch of a Ksh 300 Million grant to promote the development of local digital content and software applications. The process kicked off with a ‘call for proposals’ in today’s Daily Nation newspaper.

The main purpose of this grant is to propel the emergent lucrative but yet underexploited local content industry to growth. The grant which targets the local content developers including software developers, film, animation, advertising, publishing, gaming and education professionals and all content creators, will provide the funding required for the development of quality applications relevant to the Kenya government and private sector.

Digital content, a major contributor and driver of economic growth in developed countries, can be broadly categorized as content accessed from electronic devices like personal computers, game consoles, mobile phones and digital TV. The internet offers the most common form of distribution of digital content. Digital content can include anything from internet based marketing, gaming, online education content and services.

Worldwide, digital content activities are transforming traditional industry structures and business models. Local examples include mobile payment systems like M-Pesa and Pesa Pal and government e-services like online PIN registration. Thus the digital content industry has vast potential as a major contributor to our economy and society through employment creation, capital investment and export earnings, provision of skills and capabilities to traditional as well as new and emerging industry sectors. At the same time it is also significant as a means of expressing Kenya’s unique cultural identity.

With over 3.4 million users of the internet in Kenya, research indicates that the importance of the internet outstrips those of several key developed countries. Even so, the latent demand for local content is underlined by the fact that surveys show that lack of local content is the main reason many Kenyans shy away from accessing the internet. On the launch of the grant facility, the CEO, Kenya ICT Board Paul Kukubo, commented,

“We are pleased that we are launching this grant at a time that the ICT industry is growing and access to the internet all over the country has vastly improved. The future for content industry is bright. Talent, creativity and skills are key drivers of competitiveness in the content sector and we expect that this grant will enable Kenyans everywhere to develop world class locally relevant content and get this industry to rapidly match the lucrative opportunities for talented content developers in developed nations.”

Kenyan content developers have already demonstrated their ability to be innovative, creative and entrepreneurial in their creation of content that is relevant to our people.

The increase in locally developed software applications, websites, films and animation has been extraordinary over the past few years. However, despite evidence of commercial potential, it is not currently competitive in attracting funds and investment capital. This content grant will give content creators in the country a chance to demonstrate their talent, in both the artistic, social and business environment and propel investor confidence in the sector in the long term.

Speaking at the press conference, the Deputy CEO, Victor Kyalo commented, “It is important that with the landing of the fiber optic cables that we as a country produce local digital content, not just ‘access’ other peoples content. It is very positive that Kenyans embrace and appreciate ICTs, but more important is that there are more Kenyan made e-Products available in the market.

We want this grant to motivate the local content creators and software developers to originate, create, and adapt quality content that the country needs .We intend this content grant to be a driver for the long term development of content and recognize that private and public sector need to pool resources to meet the capacity challenges this lucrative sector faces.”

The Government attaches high priority to addressing skills shortages because of the threat they pose to productivity and economic growth. To address this, the Kenya ICT Board has a number of initiatives purposed to build skills in the ICT sector. Among these are a Centre of Excellence for the BPO sector, an incubation program for software developers and a software certification standard that will give international accreditation and competitiveness to our local developers. Additionally, the board is creating organic growth within the ICT sector by training entrepreneurs (over 1000 already trained) to run digital villages all over the country. All these coupled with the improved infrastructure, has put Kenya in the forefront of potentially explosive growth in the content and software development sub-sector.

About the grant
The content grant is divided into two major sections: US$1.5Million for private sector applications and US$2.5M for government applications. The latter will be used to propel the utilization of ICTs to improve government service delivery . The government has in the past few years firmly embraced ICT to become more efficient and responsive in the delivery of its public service – from processing ID cards, driving licenses, registration of companies, revenue collection and currently, the digitization of records at the Ministry of Lands and the judiciary, with more government departments to follow. This is all in line with Kenya’s vision of becoming a globally competitive and prosperous nation with a high quality of life by 2030.

The private sector grant of US$1.5M is open to firms and individuals to develop applications that would be of benefit to the general public or improve the delivery of existing private sector services.

The first round of grant allocation will award a maximum of US$ 50,000 per firms and US$ 10,000 for individuals. The Kenya ICT Board expects to make at least one call for application per year over the next three years.

The content funded by this grant will build capacity within the ICT sector create efficiencies, build social capital, increase utilization of ICTs by local communities and demonstrate to the world, Kenya’s talent for creation of digital content.
Key dates

Call for proposals: June 2, 2010
Deadline for proposals: July 19, 2010
Successfully grantees announced: 15 August, 2010
Disbursement of grant money: October 2010