Kenya partners UK in Digital Access

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Mrs. Nicole Gregory, head of people and partnership, British High Commission.

By Benard Mulwa
The Kenyan government has partnered with UK, International Telecommunication Union ITU, in digital Access programme.

The Government of Kenya in collaboration with its agencies and other partners have undertaken several projects to enhance digital inclusion

Ms Esther Koimet, the principle Secretary State
Department for Broadcasting and telecommunications said the government believe that the most important enabler that allowed Kenya to operate during the lockdown were the policies that the government of Kenya had earlier put in place that allowed the substantial infrastructure roll-out and investments made by the industry since the liberalization of the ICT sector.

These policies and strategies have enabled mobile network operators and infrastructure providers to invest billions of dollars over the past 20 years to create the digital infrastructure coverage and capacity that was able to sustain our lifestyles during COVID-19.

In order to close the overall digital inclusion gaps and make highspeed Internet available to those who are still unconnected and in doing so contribute to the meaningful connectivity of those who have yet to benefit from the digital economy and strengthen digital skills—there are several essential and interrelated components of digital inclusion affordability, increasing digital access, skills, and relevant content.

We need to look at what is necessary for helping low-income individuals and families adopt broadband in ways that are most appropriate to their personal needs and contexts.

Successful digital inclusion efforts should recognize the role that persistent poverty plays in shaping people’s abilities to access and use computers and the Internet. Therefore, we need to address “ability to pay” rather than “willingness to pay.” Therefore, beyond availability of infrastructure, a wide affordability gap continues to exist, driving a usage gap between penetration and coverage. According to the World Economic Forum, in low-income countries, a monthly broadband subscription costs 12% of gross national income (GNI), far higher than the UN target of less than 2% by 2025.

There is also need to develop innovative digital literacy capacity-building strategies to assist those who do not feel the Internet is relevant to them as well as those who already understand the importance of the Internet to their everyday lives.

Low-cost or free devices are just as important as having access to low-cost or free Internet connectivity, particularly for people in low-income communities. Digital inclusion should include making low-cost devices available to low-income people for free or at a reduced cost.

Availability of publicly accessible broadband connectivity facilities that allow residents to access broadband in places they feel comfortable and supported is crucial. Low-income individuals and families value public access centres because they are often in convenient locations and have helpful staff that provide them with one-on-one support with their devices and broadband Internet access.

In Kenya, we have recognized that digital inclusion needs to be connected to broader policy issues in order to show the impacts of digital inclusion and meaningful broadband adoption initiatives.
A close scrutiny of our policy documents such as the National ICT Policy, the Broadband Strategy and the Digital Economy Blueprint; among others, brings out the government’s commitment to digital inclusion. In these policy documents, digital inclusion is aimed at facilitating ICT accessibility, connectivity, affordability, and usability for all people and particularly facilitate participation of women, youth, PWDs, the elderly, people from lower social economic groups, rural communities, vulnerable people and the minority and marginalized populations of Kenya.

The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) is reviewing the Universal Service Fund (USF) Strategy and will develop a new USF strategy (2022-2026).
The Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) and African Centre for Women in ICT (ACWICT) are jointly implementing a project known as the COVID-19 and Digital Employability-III which aims at empowering 2832 young women with digital skills through mentorship, handholding and placement into digital, online work spaces and development of local relevant digital media content.

The Kenya Agriculture Livestock and Research Organization (KALRO) in partnership with the African Centre for Women in ICT (ACWICT, Digi Green, CABI, and Acre Africa are implementing a project aimed at ensuring a sustainable, climate adapted and digitally enabled agriculture for enhanced food security in Kenya.

The project aims to reach 600 Agriculture Extension Officers and Champion Farmers with basic user digital literacy skills. They will, in turn, serve as ToTs and replicate/cascade the training, directly reaching 22,000 farmers in Laikipia County. The project also aims at creating awareness for local relevant digital agriculture content for one million farmers in Laikipia, Nakuru, Kilifi, Kisumu, Homabay and Busia Counties.

The ICT Authority and Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANeT) are implementing a project aimed towards promoting cyber hygiene awareness among 30,000 excluded and marginalised populations in Kenya.

The Kenya Institute for Curriculum Development (KICD), the Kenya National Parents’ Association are collaborating with Dignitas on the Building Digital Literacy Skills for Kenyan Parents and Caregivers to Support Learning at Home. The project aims to reach 4,500 caregivers.

The Kenya ICT Authority, Association for the Physically Disabled of Kenya (APDK) and Inspire Africa Initiatives International Limited are implementing a project aimed at enhancing access to digital government services for Persons with Disabilities (PWD). The project aims to reach 500 PWDs, 30 Senior Government Officers and 40 Government ICT Officers.

The Kenya Bureau of Standards (KBS) in collaboration with Communications Authority of Kenya, Kenya ICT Authority and facilitated by Inable, are developing the Kenya Accessibility Standards (DKS 2952-1:2021) for Products and Services and the implementation framework.

We have seen enhanced digital inclusion, cyber security and cyber hygiene awareness and privacy through key multiple stakeholder engagement and knowledge exchange in Kenya targeting 520 stakeholders (400 at the Kenya Internet Governance Forums), 120 through the 4 Thought leadership Forums.) led by Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANET).

From the above observations, it is clear that as we partner our work is cut out and our collaboration is what is required to achieve these very clear objectives.

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