Another time for Connected Kenya starting today. For those who have no idea, what Connected Kenya is, it is a tech event organized by Government every year to bring together big tech hitters in Kenya, both from Private and public sectors. At the event they also award some of the best start-ups in Kenya, through what they call ICT Innovations Awards.
Connected Kenya is a great initiative but over the years many questions have been asked whether the event is living up to the ideals which it was created for. Are the promises made at the event kept…do they make sense anymore? Is the event still as important as it used to be five years ago? Those are some of the issues in mind while sitting somewhere at the beach in the morning and waiting for the event to kick off.
Actually the bigger question is how things have changed, since 2009, when the Connected Kenya was held for the first time. The issues at the time were how to build Tech City ( Konza), addressing the mile connection, funding for the start-ups through Tandaa grants program, Access to the Government shared services, getting the right talents. Since then some of those issues have not been addressed but the space has really grown. Konza remains a white elephant, just like we predicted, when it was launched by Former President Kibaki. A lot of talks but nothing to show over the years. It is over five years and the first phase as envisioned on the initial design of Konza City should have been finished by now. Of course the good people in Government would tell you otherwise but I think it is time we redefine and design the so-called Silicon Savanah afresh.
The last mile connection remains a challenge but there are some progress especially on the effort to connect the counties through National Optic Fibre Backbone(NOFBI). According to the ICT Authority
The ICT Authority is implementing Phase 11 of the National Fibre Optic cable. The construction begun in September 2014 and is expected to be complete by June 2016. The second phase will build 1,600KM of fiber linking all the 47 county headquarters and an additional 500KM dedicated for military use. This is in addition to the existing 4,300KM of NOFBI I completed in 2009. NOFBI phase1passes 58 towns in 35 counties
- 1200 Km out of the 1600KM civil works are completed.
- 900Km of fibre has been laid in the backbone section.
- The backbone section is now complete and fibre installed in all the 47 counties (Kajiado County fibre in NOFBI I was damaged by road construction) and capacity to connect Kajiado County HQ will be sourced from other operators whose fibre is along the power line to Namanga
- Metropolitan fibre civil works has been completed in 35 of 47 counties.
As for the Funding for the start-ups, things have changed over the years and private sector and specifically NGOs have led the way. What is clear at this moment is that the big issues have not changed with time. And whether enough efforts have been put to address them is debatable and it is the reason some critics think the event is not worth it or just an empty talk shop.
This year the theme for the connected Kenya is bridging the service gap. How much work is needed to bridge the service gap is what the participants at the connected Kenya will be discussing for the next three days.