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Boost for Nakuru traders as State installs free Wi-Fi in market

The government has started installing Wi-Fi hotspots in markets within Nakuru County as part of its digitization and economic transformation agenda.

With the Nakuru Wakulima Market as the first one to benefit from the initiative in the devolved unit, the free Wi-Fi is meant to help traders sell their produce and wares on social media networks and attract a huge clientele.

State Department for Information, Communication, Technology and Digital Economy Principal Secretary Engineer John Tanui launched internet connectivity running with a radius of 300 square meters at the market targeting Mama mbogas, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), public service vehicle operators and people in the jua-kali sector.

“We are going to have internet connectivity in major markets because we have acknowledged that you have to be digitally connected to know what is happening. This program is going to help our traders inside the markets and those running other businesses to access a large clientele by posting their wares on social platforms,” indicated Engineer Tanui.

Speaking at the Wakulima market after overseeing the Wi-Fi launch the Principal Secretary pointed out that internet installation is intended to revolutionise business operations for traders who will now be able to trade online from the comfort of their stalls.

Engineer Tanui who was flanked by County Commissioner Loyford Kibaara and Deputy Governor Mr David Kones said the internet is the way to go for enhanced economic transformation.

He noted that with the availability of the internet, traders will be able to trade internationally by looking for clients and new customers both locally and abroad adding that it will ease business transactions.

The PS disclosed that Kenya Kwanza government had set a target of laying out an extra 100,000km of Fibre with an average 25,000km being done annually

“Through the Universal Service Fund, we are reaching and connecting those parts of the country that have not seemed commercially viable to our private sector partners. Some 194 of the Wi-Fi are in marketplaces and county headquarters, 172 public Wi-Fi hotspots have been installed as community innovation hubs, while Information Communication Technology Authority (ICTA) has installed another 95 hotspots bringing the total to 461,” the Principal Secretary disclosed.

He added “Over the five-year period, we are looking at establishing 1,450 digital hubs. We aim to establish one hub in each of the 1,450-County Assembly electoral wards with 290 hubs being set up annually. 174 hubs have already been installed,”

Besides providing internet at markets, Engineer Tanui revealed that internet connectivity in various parts of the country aims to bridge the unemployment gap by leveraging on the power of digital technologies.

He expressed optimism that by utilising the free Wi-Fi hotspots, the youth will be able to access online job opportunities and expand their prospects in the digital marketplace.

The Principal Secretary noted that the government’s Ajira and Jitume programmes are equipping citizens digitally.

In collaboration with technical and vocational training institutes, he added, the state intends to equip one million learners with ICT skills for digital entrepreneurship.

“We are deploying 23,000 computers in these institutions. Today, 77 vocational entities have received 6,700 desktops while 8,159 virtual desktops have been supplied to institutions. On the Ajira Digital Programme, roughly 1.9 million Kenyans have been engaged in the gig economy, an increase from 638,000 in 2019,” he said

Engineer Tanui observed that digital marketing and e-commerce training modules have equipped over 350,000 youth with digital skills and consequently creating over 110,000 digital jobs.

To facilitate universal access to smart-enabled telephones, the Principal Secretary added that the Ministry in partnership with mobile network operators has embarked on local assembly of low-cost digital telephone gadgets at an affordable retail price of about Sh6,000 (USD40) per unit.

“Micro Small and Medium enterprises (MSMEs) make a substantial contribution to livelihoods and inclusive growth in Kenya. They account for 24 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), more than 90 per cent of private sector enterprises and 93 per cent of the total labour force in the economy. Due to their huge contribution to the national economy, digitization will support small enterprises in competitiveness, business performance, and growth,” stated the PS.

Deputy Governor Kones noted that the penetration of the internet and vast use of mobile phones provides opportunities for traders, farmers and entrepreneurs to explore markets that were once locked by physical barriers. He urged entrepreneurs to tap into the ever-growing digital space.

Mr Kones said the digitization of small businesses supports the growth of the economy, given the important role they play in the wider economic picture.

He affirmed that Governor Susan Kihika’s administration was working with the national government and stakeholders in the private sector to enhance the implementation of e-commerce and the digital economy for the benefit of traders and small businesses.

Mr Kones said digitization can help businesses to reduce operational costs, improve productivity, expand to new markets and customers, and use the information to foster innovation. Digital payment solutions he added have greatly revolutionized business processes.

“The growth potential for e-commerce is also evidenced by the number and size of new players on the market who provide e-commerce solutions for both merchants and consumers. Despite digital transformation being a challenge, it is a competitive advantage for organizations during business disruptions.”

He cited the Covid-19 pandemic which accelerated the digital transformation process and added urgency for Governments to respond to a widening gap in digital readiness.

The County Government, he pledged, was putting in place an e-commerce strategy to propel growth in trade and businesses, which will enable the devolved unit to reap maximum benefits in the sector.

By Anne Mwale 

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