ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru has said the Covid-19 pandemic has unlocked numerous opportunities in the digital space which if fully exploited, would reduce youth unemployment and increase household incomes.
Mucheru cited Kenyan online creative performers and artists who within the past 12 months during lock downs in various parts of the country had netted Sh2.4 billion by posting their contents on well-known and emerging digital platforms.
Speaking at Kabarak University’s Main Campus in Rongai Sub-County when he inaugurated the institution’s 11th International Research Conference, the CS said online job opportunities had also increased in logistics, e-commerce, farming, taxi hailing and education sectors among others following outbreak of the pandemic.
While delivering a key note address during the conference themed ‘Digital Economy in Africa and Innovative Opportunities for the Youth amidst Emerging Economic Challenges’, the CS further called on Kenyan youth to develop Artificial Intelligence that could digitize local indigenous languages so that they do not become extinct in a rapidly digitized world.
He was accompanied by the University Chancellor who is also Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, Vice Chancellor Professor Henry Kiplagat and Dean School of Business and Economics Dr Patrick Kibati in the event that was also moderated via Zoom by Dr Nehemiah Kiprop.
Mucheru advised online content creators and innovators to register their products with National Rights Registry (NRR) a portal that acts as the central repository, which collates details pertaining to ownership of various copyrights under the Kenya Copyrights Board (KECOBO).
According to the CS, further protection may be accorded to such online works using digital rights systems (DRMs) which he stated were diverse and included password protection, limitation of copying and printing and watermarks.
“Our law refers to DRMs as technological protection measures. It will be deemed copyright infringement if a third party manipulates the DRM to access the works unlawfully. It is, therefore, infringement to bypass passwords, remove them or alter them. Proven infringement entitles one to certain remedies such as injunctions, damages and delivery up,” added Mucheru.
He observed that while the NRR mandate falls under KECOBO, right holders needed to educate themselves on the relevant taxes and how it impacts them.
“When it comes to this particular issue, for example Safaricom’s Skiza tune, the relevant tax is the one on airtime, as airtime is the currency of Skiza. It is at a rate that influences the money owed to the artiste,” he pointed out.
The CS revealed that the government had made it easier for online content creators and artists to get their royalties as it was now possible to directly collect money owed to them without going through third parties.
Mucheru affirmed the government’s commitment to improve access to digital space through formulation of supportive policy frameworks, investments in high speed internet through public-private partnerships and setting up of 212 Ajira Digital Platforms countrywide.
Currently, the CS noted 1.2 million Kenyan Youth were making a living in areas of online transcription, digital marketing, virtual assistance, data entry and management and online writing adding that as the world struggles with social-economic challenges brought by Covid-19 pandemic, online workers have not been affected because their workspace is safe to conduct business and deliver services.
Mucheru indicated that the Ajira initiative seeks to impart skills in 15 million youth by 2030 to help them secure temporary online work such as software development and transcription services in a rapidly evolving global gig economy.
The programme involves hiring mentors to offer training and providing free internet connectivity and work spaces through the constituency innovation hubs, largely funded by National Government Constituencies Development Fund (NG-CDF).
He noted that there was growing need for entrepreneurs to join the digital market to expose Kenyan goods to the global market and called on the dominant small and micro enterprise sector in the country to exploit the increased online purchases for growth.
“Online trading can help to make more goods and services available for consumers, increase market access for SMEs and encourage investments,” said the CS
Mucheru pledged the government’s resolve to bring the cost of internet down while at same time improving its penetration in rural parts of the country through legislations and policies that protect all stakeholders in the online industry.
Senator Moi noted that despite the disruption of Covid-19, in many economic sectors, young Kenyans were devising creative solutions to the problems posed by the new digital economy, demonstrating the resilience and transformation technology could bring.
The Baringo Senator affirmed that Covid-19 provided an opportunity for innovations of staying ahead of trends and making them come up with the best for the success of their business.
“Digital platforms have become increasingly fundamental to economies across the world and no country should be left behind. The gig economy has become an important source of livelihood for many young people in Kenya,” he said.
Moi observed that the youth were the crucial link in transitioning to the e-commerce and digital economy.
By Anne Mwale