Connected Summit 2023 concludes with a commitment to a digitally inclusive Kenya

The Connected Summit 2023 just came to an end in Diani, Kwale County, highlighting Kenya’s progress and potential for future growth in the digital economy. 

The summit is organized by the Ministry of Information, Communication, and the Digital Economy in collaboration with the ICT industry sector players. 

Speaking during the closing ceremony, Eliud Owalo, Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Information, Communication and the Digital Economy, outlined the government’s strategic initiatives, including the Kenya National Digital Masterplan – 2022-2032, which identifies technology as a key pillar in its Transformation Agenda. The Masterplan focuses on five thematic areas: Agriculture, Micro Small and Medium Enterprises, Healthcare, Housing and Settlements, Digital Superhighway, and the Creative Economy.

Hon. Moses Kuria, Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Investments, Trade, and Industry, who was also present emphasized the crucial role of digital trade and e-commerce in Kenya’s burgeoning economy. He envisions a future where seamless online transactions will foster sustainable economic growth, opening doors to international markets and promoting local innovation. By harnessing the power of digital technologies, Hon. Kuria believes that Kenya can leapfrog traditional barriers and become a global leader in e-commerce, creating a vibrant ecosystem that empowers entrepreneurs, supports small businesses, and fuels the country’s overall economic prosperity.

According to Eng. John Tanui, Principal Secretary of the Ministry of ICT and The Digital Economy, the government aims to join forces with the private sector, development partners, and international organizations to implement the Digital Masterplan. This ambitious plan calls for an investment of over KSh500 billion, which will be fueled by a comprehensive funding strategy blending public and private sources of capital.

“A Resource Mobilization Committee, a brilliant brainchild of industry leaders, was formed as an outcome of the summit,” said Stanley Kamanguya, CEO of the ICT Authority. “This powerful committee’s mission is to champion the financing of programs and projects in a sustainable manner, secure funding opportunities, and engage with relevant stakeholders, such as development partners, private equity players, venture capitalists, financiers, and others.”

The government reaffirmed its unwavering commitment to women’s economic empowerment, digital access, and supporting the creative economy and digital entrepreneurship. The successful rollout of the Hustler Fund, a shining example of this commitment, has brought financial inclusion benefitting the Micro Small and Medium Enterprises and Kenyans at the bottom economic pyramid.

In a groundbreaking announcement, plans to host an AI conference backed by UNESCO in June 2023 were unveiled, with a focus on promoting AI technology to improve public sector service delivery. The government, spearheaded aims to harness the power of artificial intelligence to boost productivity in workplaces and create jobs in high-value areas.

Significant progress has been made in expanding critical digital infrastructure across the country, with a 25,000km fiber network rollout and plans for an additional 5,000km network by June. The government, in collaboration with the private sector and under the guidance of the ICT Authority, is on track to have over 100,000km of fiber infrastructure in the next five years. This development will enhance service delivery in various sectors such as health, finance, and agriculture.

Eng. Tanui emphasized the government’s dedication to deploying 25,000 WiFi hotspots, specifically targeting marketplaces and transportation hubs, to stimulate e-commerce and generate employment opportunities for the youth and traders. Moreover, the government is devoted to creating 1,450 ICT villages in each ward, fostering economic transformation and narrowing the digital divide. This pioneering initiative guarantees that even the most isolated regions of Kenya become connected, empowering them to actively participate in the digital economy.

As Kenya works towards a thriving digital economy, the importance of a robust policy and legal framework to enable growth in the ICT sector is recognized. The government, is committed to enacting regulatory laws that will support innovation, protect consumer rights, and foster a competitive environment for businesses.

The Connected Summit 2023, served as a platform for sharing groundbreaking ideas, forging powerful partnerships, and driving innovation. The key proposals arising from the summit include making Kenya the Regional Hub for technology transfer in Africa, institutionalizing artificial intelligence, waiving wayleave charges on ICT to incentivize private sector fiber optic deployment, standardizing systems and applications used by counties, and bridging the skill gap on cybersecurity in Kenya, among others.

Under the guidance of ICT Authority, the Ministry of Information, Communication and the Digital Economy will establish a County ICT forum, chaired by the CEO of the ICT Authority and incorporating all County Executive Committees in charge of ICT. This forum will foster collaboration between the County and National Government, enabling the adoption of best practices in both levels of government.

Harmonization of data and data management is another key proposal from the summit, aiming to provide a single, comprehensive view of data resources, which will allow for more effective decision-making and policy development. 

The government, according to Eng. Tanui is also committed to supporting the passage of the Critical ICT Infrastructure Bill, which will provide a legal framework to protect and promote the development of essential ICT infrastructure across the country.

The success of the Connected Summit 2023 stands as a testament to the unwavering commitment and dedication of industry players, stakeholders, and partners in driving Kenya’s digital transformation. Cabinet Secretary Owalo, while expressing his deepest appreciation to the industry participants at the summit, acknowledged that their steadfast dedication, inventive thinking, and cooperative mindset fuel Kenya’s digital transformation. He underscored that through the united endeavors of all stakeholders, including remarkable contributions from key individuals and visionaries in the ICT sector, Kenya will flourish in the digital era, ensuring that opportunities are available to everyone, irrespective of their background, location, or resources.

As an African proverb says, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Undeniably, the Connected Summit 2023 has played a pivotal role in shaping Kenya’s digital future. Together, the government and private sector will go far and achieve the vision of a digitally inclusive Kenya. As the country advances, the lessons learned, partnerships forged, and innovative ideas generated at the summit will lay the foundation for a brighter, more interconnected, and digitally inclusive future for all Kenyans.

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