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CS Owalo applauds the digitization of Government services

The National Government’s radical move to digitize and onboard thousands of its services has enhanced efficiency and boosted its revenue collections from a daily collection of Sh. 60 million to Sh. 1 billion in the last year, the Cabinet Secretary (CS) in the Ministry of Information, Communications and Digital Economy, Mr Eliud Owalo has revealed.

Owalo said the government’s deliberate decision to digitize its services has borne fruit which has resulted in enhanced efficiency in service delivery, transparency, and increased revenue collections.

The CS said the government is committed to bridging the digital divide through the automation of services, creating digital jobs through the creation of digital hubs, and enhancing access through the laying of 100 kilometres of fiber, thanks to the digital superhighway initiative. Mr. Owalo was in July last year quoted saying 5,084 government services had fully been digitised.

Owalo noted that the Government is on course in establishing 25,000 WIFI hotspots across the country as well as 1,450 digital hubs spread across all constituencies adding that the National Government Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF) will allocate three percent of its monies towards infrastructural upgrades on this digital hubs initiative in the constituencies.

He was giving a keynote address during the 4th edition of the Nation Digital Summit on Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Naivasha on Thursday. The summit whose this year`s theme is, “Synergies in digital transformation and Artificial Intelligence (AI)” brings together various players and experts in Information Technology (IT) from both the private and public sectors.

Mr. Owalo said Kenya is doing everything to be counted as an influential participant at the Artificial Intelligence (AI) table and this strategy is spurred by the Bottom-up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA) 2022-2027.

He explained that through the BETA agenda, there is an ongoing sectoral reform process whereby a team of diverse Kenyan professionals has been tasked with evaluating the operational framework of every structure under the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Digital Economy (MoICDE).

Stressing the necessity of regulatory systems to govern AI technology, the CS also underscored the importance of collaborative efforts on a global scale, noting that meaningful collaboration among world leaders is essential to effectively address the risks associated with frontier AI and capitalize on its significant opportunities across various domains.

In addition, Owalo said his ministry had a plan to place the country on a path of global competitiveness, and all the legal, policy and regulatory frameworks have to be realigned with current global standards.

“The Ministry recognises the transformative potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in improving service delivery across diverse sectors of the economy and revolutionise existing systems by enhancing efficiency, accuracy, and accessibility, promising to transform service delivery methods, improve outcomes, and optimise resource allocation,” the CS remarked.

He further stated that it was imperative that as a country we harness the power of collaboration and synergy to unlock new opportunities for growth, innovation, and inclusive development and added that artificial intelligence holds the key to addressing some of our most pressing challenges and realising our collective aspirations.

“AI stands as a formidable catalyst for innovation, offering unparalleled opportunities to address complex challenges and drive economic growth and our commitment is to foster an environment that nurtures AI research, development, and application”.

To this end, Owalo highlighted three key pillars that will guide Kenya`s efforts in fostering synergies in digital transformation and AI. They include Inclusive Digitisation where the government will ensure that the benefits of digital transformation reach every corner of our society. It includes bridging the digital divide, empowering marginalised communities, and providing equal access to digital resources and opportunities.

“To this end, my ministry has adopted a countrywide digital skills training for capacity development that will benefit Kenyans from all walks of life,” the CS explained.

Owalo stated that the other pillar involves Collaborative Innovation where the Government is encouraging public-private partnerships, academia-industry collaborations, and cross-sector engagements to drive innovation in digital technologies and artificial intelligence.

On the third pillar of Ethical AI and Data Governance, the CS said it is crucial to prioritise ethical considerations and establish robust data governance frameworks to safeguard cyberspace and strike a balance between innovation and responsibility, while at the same time ensuring that AI technologies are developed and deployed with transparency, fairness, and accountability. This, he said will build trust among citizens and stakeholders, laying the foundation for sustainable digital growth.

“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,”

Noting that AI developments necessitate investments in cyber security, Owalo revealed that his ministry has devised a strategy to raise awareness among technical staff through training programs. The initiative aims to ensure that staff members stay informed about relevant AI developments, especially concerning security threats and failure modes, enabling them to make informed decisions.

The CS reiterated that the government`s commitment to actively participate in global discussions on AI and the challenges posed by this digital transformation should not be obstacles but opportunities for progress.

“By working together, we can shape a future where technology serves as a force for good, uplifting the lives of our people and contributing to the overall development of our nation,” Owalo advised the participants of the summit.

By Mabel Keya Shikuku and Erastus Gichohi

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