Why digital technology is at the centre of government’s development agenda

The digital economy is growing at the rate of 2.5% faster than the physical economy

The government is optimistic that the push to use digital technology to create jobs, enhance delivery of services and collect revenue will enable the country fast-track economic growth. Mr Eliud Owalo, the Cabinet Secretary for Information, Communications and the Digital Economy, said that the benefits of digitalisation are already being seen and felt across all sectors and the government is building upon them to enable the country have a fully-fledged digital economy.

“Our aggressive push towards digitalisation has not only transformed the service delivery landscape, but also led to a substantial surge in revenue collection from Sh60 million daily to an impressive Sh1 billion over the past year,” said Mr Owalo, who was speaking at a Digital Summit on Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Naivasha.

Some 12,692 government services have been on-boarded fully to the E-Citizen platform, while work to ensure the remaining ones are on the platform is ongoing.

The digitilisation of services has bolstered efficiency and transparency in service delivery, with the government working to bridge to digital divide through expansion of the fibre cable network and provision of free public Wi-Fi to ensure every citizen has access to the internet.

In the last one year, the Government has set up 1,261 free public Wi-Fi hotspots, facilitating communication and business. Further, it has installed 8,419km of fibre cable in partnership with private sector players, as part of the 100,000km five-year target and set up 247 digital hubs across the country.

And as part of efforts to enhance Universal Health Coverage, some 46 hospitals have been connected to the national fibre optic cable and the Hospital Health Management Information System (Afya KE) that is expected to deepen access to health services is being piloted in selected facilities.

“The government is committed to bridging the digital divide through the automation of services, creating digital jobs and the laying of 100,000 kilometres of fibre cable,” stated the CS.

CS Owalo has reiterated government’s commitment to digitise its processes as ICT is a critical enabler of the Bottom-Up Economic Transformation Agenda

To enhance the enhancement the deployment of digital technology at the grassroots, Parliament passed an amendment to the National Government Constituency Development Fund (NGCDF) Act allowing 3 per cent of allocations to be used in construction and paying for utilities, costs and maintenance of constituency digital hubs.

This change will revolutionise connectivity and access to digital services, particularly in underserved regions, said the CS, noting that ICT is one of the five pillars of the government Bottom-up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA).

He added that the government is enhancing digital skills of the youth and linking them to jobs through Ajira and Jitume programmes, which provide training and enable the youth to work and earn a living online.

“So far, we have managed to setup and operationalise 116 Jitume digital centres across the country to support the government’s initiative of creating employment opportunities for over 1,000,000 youth in three to five years’ time,” noted Mr Owalo.

The Jitume programme is being implemented in partnership with Technical and Vocational Education and Training Institutes (TVETs), which are being equipped with 23,000 digital devices.

The 116 sites have been connected and supplied with 11,400 Virtual Desktop Devices. Over 390,968 youths have been trained under both Jitume and Ajira programmes and 119,462 jobs created.

Eng John Tanui, the PS for ICT and Digital Economy, noted that the ongoing digital transformation provides a fundamental change in the way the government serves citizens, promotes efficiency and transparency and enhances cost-effective service delivery.

“The government is enhancing connectivity, linking institutions, enterprises, homes and markets to create equal development enabling everyone to tap into digital opportunities,” said the PS.

According to Mr Owalo, the government is keen on using artificial intelligence to enhance service delivery across various sectors.

“The ministry recognises the transformative potential of AI in improving service delivery and revolutionise existing systems by enhancing efficiency, accuracy, and accessibility,” said the CS. He said there are three key pillars guiding Kenya’s efforts in fostering synergies in digital transformation and the use of AI.

The first is inclusive digitisation, which aims to ensure that the benefits of digital transformation reach every segment of society, including the marginalised communities. The second is collaborative Innovation, which emphasises the promotion of public-private partnerships, academia-industry collaborations and cross-sector engagements to drive innovation.

Lastly, there is the ethical use of AI and data governance, which underscores the importance of transparency, fairness, and accountability in AI development and deployment.

“The government is actively engaging in an open, interdisciplinary conversation to assess risks stemming from frontier AI, delineate the roles of different actors in responding to these risks, and explore the considerable opportunities that AI presents and international collaboration is crucial for managing these risks and fostering opportunities arising from frontier AI,” noted the CS.

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