Human Capital developemnt vs Tech City, which is which for Kenya?

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During the Mobile East Africa Conference 2012 there was a time slot  for the app developer contest sponsored by InMobi and BlackBerry. There were five developers who  pitched their Apps to a judging panel(MWEA2012 Audience), who had the very difficult task of picking a winner.

A brief overview of the five applications:

  1. Verified 100%: an app that allows users to verify education certificates and title deeds to ensure authenticity.
  2. Hewa: an online mobile music marketing and distribution platform for Kenyan local artists and record labels.
  3. Eat Out Kenya: a contemporary restaurant guide focused on Kenya.
  4. mPayer: a cash and mobile money payment management app
  5. eLimu: an interactive, engaging and fun app for children in the Kenyan Primary School eduction system to learn and revise for exams.

At the end eLimu emerged the winner of the contest.

Nivi Mukherjee, the Founder of eLimu

The founder Nivi Mukherjee says “eLimu hopes to make a significant and positive long term impact on the Kenyan youth by improving their: test scores, cognitive thinking skills, social/environmental consciousness and IT literacy.”

Part of the prize that eLimu was awarded is $1500 worth of advertising on the InMobi network. Moses Kemibaro, Africa Sales Director for InMobi says “we hope this prize will assist in growing the eLimu app, and as a result furthering education in Kenya”.

I was among the people who voted for eLimu but we had a heated debate before and after the voting  with people on my table. We had all agreed that eLimu will win the contest even before voting took place because of the simple reason of being an Education app.  And it has to be said that it was not because it was the well pitched app nor was it the best technically designed app. But because it is one of the apps that touch on what Kenya as a country needs most at the moment to move forward.

Human Capital development vs Tech City

eLimu app goes in the heart of  everything the country needs in terms of human capital development. And the debate we had on my table was about which is which at this moment, between the Human Capital training and the tech city infrastructure? Should the money and the effort being used to build a tech city be used for the human capital training instead? Much like egg and hen debate on  which came first.

Konza City is a brilliant idea, which should be replicated everywhere in Kenya.  All Kenyan towns or cities should be planned but the Government selling it as Tech City is a bit misplaced. The Silicon valley where everyone around here seems to be obsessed with happened by accident and not through Government planning. Already we have Ngong Road developing as a tech lane in Kenya. If anyone is dreaming of having a version of Silicon Valley in Kenya then we already have a baby like Silicon Valley in the name of Ngong Road. The Government should now move in and ensure the road network around the area is great. At the moment moving along  Ngong Road whether through personal car or public vehicle is a nightmare. The Government should move in and expand Ngong Road to make doing business around there easier and smoother.

Konza City vision is amazing when you listen to Dr. Ndemo or Prof. Kiamba but ignoring Nairobi then thinking that Konza city will make all the difference is highly misguided. Good life at Konza City will attract all sorts of people, and with no time it will be another congested city.

Yeah yeah I hear you, the voices who talk about Kenyans thinking big, but thinking big when you can  not do simple basic things is a pipe dream.

All in all I like Konza City Idea, but I only think that it is an idea which should be pursued by the Ministry of Planning and Development, while the people in technology should concentrate on human capital development. The Konza idea should go beyond one City and should involve all the existing cities and towns across the country. Making one city a paradise surrounded by filthy congested towns or cities is not going to help anything.

What is your opinion on the topic?
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