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Govt plans to manufacture digital mobile phones

Plans are at an advanced stage for Kenya to commence the production of low-cost digital telephone gadgets and other digital devices in the country.

The assembly of the phones and related gadgets is still ongoing, a production that will be undertaken by the private sector.

The Information, Communications, and the Digital Economy Cabinet Secretary ( CS), Eliud Owalo, said his Ministry has been assured that the first batch of affordable smart mobile phones that will be rolled out in the market at a cost of about USD 40.00 per unit will be ready this year.

ICT and The Digital Economy PS, Eng. John Tanui, speaking during a breakfast meeting for Media Editors hosted by the Ministry of Information CS, Eliud Owalo, at the Serena Hotel in Nairobi. Photo by Kibet Cheptumo

Owalo said the government has partnered with the private sector to enable people who cannot afford smart phones to access affordable devices that can make them do transactions and make calls for businesses, in line with the bottom-up economic strategy.

The CS made the remarks at a Nairobi hotel on Monday when presenting a Report to stakeholders and partners in the digital technology sector on the One-Year Score Card Status Report of the Ministry of Information, Communications, and the Digital Economy, its achievements, and what it plans to undertake in its second year.

He at the same time announced that his Ministry has already constituted a multi-agency technical committee on digital identity (ID) to work on modalities for operationalization of the system, as per the directives of President, Dr. William Ruto, who wants the same in operation by February 2024.

The CS said the Ministry has also embarked on the establishment of a National Contact Centre, a central point where citizens will interact with the government across various channels, through digital methods of communication such as social media, messaging, email, and online chats.

“The Ministry is currently piloting a contact centre that provides service to all citizens by dedicated contact centre officers, who will provide 24 hour services on a daily basis, to support citizens seeking to interact with the government,” said Owalo.

He added that citizens seeking services will be connected to officers or log calls on matters of interest, which will be responded to by relevant officers, ministries, departments, and agencies.

The contact services have already been piloted by Konza Technopolis in Nandi, Elgeyo Marakwet, and Baringo Counties.

The CS said the Ministry, while partnering with the private sector players, has been able to achieve and surpass the set targets for the period the Kenya Kwanza took over the government, citing the 5,280 km of optic fibre cable that has been connected across the country, surpassing the 5,000 kms set target.

Broadcasting and Telecommunications PS, Prof. Edward Kisiang’ani, speaking during a breakfast meeting for Media Editors hosted by the Ministry of Information CS, Eliud Owalo, at the Serena Hotel in Nairobi, Monday, July 31, 2023. Photo by Kibet Cheptumo

“The private sector players, which include Liquid Telcom, Wananchi Group, Safaricom, and Airtel, among others, have installed 2,500 kms, while the government has installed 2,700 kms of optic fibre cable infrastructure,” said Owalo.

He announced that the Ministry, in collaboration with other government agencies, has also been able to map out all areas where the 100,000 km fibre optic cable will be rolled-out in the country, adding that the Ministry will optimise the use of the already available fibre connectivity of other government agencies.

On the installation and operationalization of public Wi-Fi Hotspots, the CS announced that the Ministry has connected 421 free public Wi-Fi Hotspots as of July 31st, 2023, as per the set target of 94 hotspots, two per County.

“Based on the Ministry’s collaboration with the County Government, 194 of the Wi-Fis have been established in partnership with county governments in markets and county headquarters,” he stated, adding that a total of 14,690 public Wi-Fi hotspot sites have been identified across the country.

At the same time, the CS disclosed that, in the one-year review, out of the overall five-year period of having a total of 1,450 digital hubs established, the Ministry has managed to establish and operationalize a total of 174 hubs, where the youth are being equipped with digital skills for digital jobs and entrepreneurship.

He said that the Ministry held consultations with the ICT Committee of the Council of Governors, to work out a framework for setting up digital hubs within village polytechnics, which can be jointly funded with shared responsibilities between the respective County governments and the Ministry.

“The County will ensure funding of operational expenditures and the cost of wayleaves, while the Ministry will provide the devices and human resources and source digitally enabled jobs,” said Owalo.

The CS further stated that the government has also signed a funding agreement of USD 570 million (approx. 79.8 billion) with the World Bank to finance the Kenya Digital Economy Acceleration Programme, which is aimed at driving digital innovation, creating jobs, and boosting commerce enablers.

He said the Ministry has also negotiated funds worth Sh5 billion from the universal service fund to finance the 2,500 km of fibre Optic Cable Digital Super Highway in at least 19 counties that are either unserved or underserved towards the digitization of government services.

UDA Secretary-General, Cleophas Malala, speaks during a breakfast meeting for Media Editors hosted by the Information, Communications and The Digital Economy, CS, Eliud Owalo, at the Serena Hotel in Nairobi, Monday, July 31, 2023. Photo by Kibet Cheptumo

Meanwhile, the Ministry has so far digitised 5,084 government services, surpassing the 5,000 target. The priority sectoral areas for digitization include health, land, the Kenya Revenue Authority, Transport, Education, Border control, citizen services, and the cabinet.

The event was also attended by the Broadcasting and Telecommunications PS Prof. Edward Kisiang’ani and his ICT counterpart Eng. John Tanui, the Secretary General of Kenya of Kwanza Cleophas Malala, and Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Wesley Rotich, among others.

By Bernadette Khaduli

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