After Access: The state of ICT in Kenya

Policy Paper No.9, Series 5: After Access The State of ICT in Kenya

By Margaret Nyambura Ndung’u, Charley Lewis and Onkokame Mothobi

Kenya seeks to position itself in the future of this digital world and global economy, spearheading innovation in the area of mobile money. With more than half of the Kenyan population now banked, the benefits are spreading to low-income households and individuals who are still largely unbanked. The digital economy and e-commerce are likely to take centre stage in the next few years. Kenya will need to position itself more aggressively in terms of strategies and policy direction to ensure that it fully reaps the benefits and opportunities presented, and to safeguard its citizens from the associated risks and potential harms.

This report looks at the information and communication  technologies (ICT) sector in Kenya from both supply-side and demand-side perspectives, highlighting the dramatic changes that have taken place in this dynamic sector since the last sector performance review of Kenya was done by Research ICT Africa only five years ago (Waema & Ndung’u, 2012). The importance of understanding what happens ‘after access’ is revealed through the fieldwork survey undertaken in 2017, which covered 1 200 households across the country and 500 small and micro businesses. 

This is complemented by a supply-side analysis of policy outcomes in the country, primarily in relation to affordable access, and Kenya’s readiness for what is now popularly referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. As with earlier versions, the purpose of this research is to enrich the evidence base supporting ICT sector development. Worth noting is that two recommendations made in the previous report have been implemented, namely, the creation of a detailed plan for ICT policy implementation aligned both to Kenya’s Vision 2030 development blueprint and the new Constitution of 2010, and the need to address the overlapping mandates of government institutions in the ICT sector through the creation of an ICT Authority. However, the issue of lengthy and cumbersome procurement processes has not yet been fully addressed, despite the creation of an e-procurement portal.

The report notes that Kenya has shown some modest gains in global economic rankings, including in relation to the country’s global competitiveness and its ease of doing business. Kenya is rated as a country having a ‘medium’ level of human development, with corruption in the public sector still a challenge. Kenya’s ICT sector is governed by national policy implemented in 2016, which in itself was an update of  national policy from a decade earlier. Recent legislative changes have seen the replacement of the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA), with a wider mandate and greater regulatory powers. Furthermore, a new coordinating government structure, the ICT Authority, has been created to take over and centralise a number of ICT sector functions and responsibilities.

On the basis of the analysis presented in the report, several specific recommendations are made which include:

  • Kenya is well-positioned in the digital economy space, with e-commerce starting to take off. The government of Kenya should put in place e-commerce strategies and policies to guide the growth of this digital economy. Human capital requirements, both in the user and producer markets, are required preconditions for this.
  • Cybersecurity remains a real challenge in Kenya, as it does globally There is, therefore, a need to revisit the National CybersecurityStrategy and Regulations comprehensively in order to address these emerging challenges.
  • The majority of non-Internet users in Kenya are people who live in the rural areas (84%) and who are mostly female (58%). This is further evidence that digital inequalities exacerbate the traditional social inequalities.To address demand side challenges identifies in the survey,  there will need to be far greater state coordination across different economic and social sectors, as well as public and private sector collaboration to build globally competitive digital economies and societies.

Read more of the finds of our report here : Policy Paper No.9, Series 5: After Access The State of ICT in Kenya