The Government is seeking to tap the potential of technology and innovation, as a tool to advance gender-responsive supply chain management, to accelerate the pace of change and recognize the potential of women.
Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs Cabinet Secretary (CS), Joe Mucheru, said that the Kenya Government, under President Uhuru Kenyatta, is committed to ensuring that the country, is at the forefront of the 4th Industrial revolution.
Mucheru, in a speech read on his behalf by ICT and Broadcasting Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS), Ms. Maureen Mbaka, Friday, during a Women Empowerment Principles (WEP) Forum said that to achieve the ‘Big Four’ Agenda, technology is indispensable.
“As a Ministry, our goal remains to facilitate universal access to reliable and affordable ICT infrastructure all over the country, as an enabler of socio-economic growth as was envisioned in our economic development blueprint, the Vision 2030,” stressed Mucheru.
The CS said that Kenya’s Digital Economy Blueprint promotes the development of digital skills as a key pillar in achieving Kenya’s vision of becoming a knowledge-based economy, with ICT as a key enabler.
“Ours is to create a conducive environment for more start-ups, including women owned ones, to develop while also seeking more partnerships with stakeholders from both the local and international technology landscape,” said Mucheru.
The CS highlighted that the Covid-19 pandemic has called into focus, the need for an increased pace of digitization and people have been forced to rethink, how they work and live.
“Increasingly, we are doing our work online, we are shopping online, educating our children online, we even have telemedicine and surgery carried out by doctors from various parts of the world, working remotely,” explained Mucheru.
He disclosed that the internet, digital platforms, mobile phones and digital financial services offer “leapfrog” opportunities for all and can help bridge the divide, by giving women the possibility to earn additional income, increase their employment opportunities and access knowledge and general information.
Mucheru said that the road ahead is uphill, explaining that worldwide, today, some 327 million fewer women than men, have a smartphone and can access the mobile Internet.
“Women are under-represented in ICT jobs, top management and academic careers and men are four times more likely than women, to be ICT specialists. At 15 years of age, on average, only 0.5 per cent of girls, wish to become ICT professionals, compared to five per cent of boys,” said Mucheru.
He added that women-owned start-ups, receive 23 per cent less funding and are 30 per cent less likely to have a positive exit, compared to male-owned businesses.
“As Government, we have several programs in place to empower women entrepreneurs and women led businesses, such as the Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (AGPO), which implements the legal requirement under the Constitution of Kenya, for women, youth and persons with disabilities to access 30 per cent of government procurement opportunities, which was officially launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta on 16th October, 2013 in Nairobi,” said Mucheru.
He highlighted other programs that facilitate access to finance, such as the Women Enterprise Fund that seeks to offer accessible and affordable financial and innovative business support services to Kenyan women, for transformed livelihoods through resources mobilization, collaborations and partnerships.
“As regards technologies, the government through my Ministry together with partners, has the Ajira Digital Program, that seeks to empower youth of Kenya, to explore the world of online work through providing free training, on the gig economy,” said the CS.
He explained that within the Ajira program, together with another partner EMobilis, have a women digital work series, specifically aimed at enabling young girls and women, to up-skilling opportunities for them in the gig and freelance economy.
“Under the series, we do reach out to young women and girls all over the country, on the benefits of the program. The program actively monitors the number of women and girls going through the program and aims to have 70 per cent of the youth in the program being girls, currently we are at 50 per cent,” he said.
“Further, championed by my office and supported by invaluable partners such as Konza and Huawei, we have in place the girls in ICT initiative, which, through various programs such as hackathoms, blogging challenges, mentorship, we aim to encourage more girls and young women, to actively pursue careers related to ICTs and Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM),” said Mucheru.
By Joseph Ng’ang’a