September 5th to 8th were the dates global delegates representing governments, training centers, institutions of higher learning and several directors and top managers from ICT firms assembled at Safari Park Hotel Nairobi to discuss how individuals, organizations and governments can embrace capacity building opportunities in the digital era. After the four days conference, one thing was clear – access to unlimited & affordable Internet remains key in building capacity in the ICT sector.
Since it’s inception, the ICT sector has continued to be the most dynamic sector at the global scale, with new technologies and solutions springing up at an exponential rate. To keep up with the changes, continuous education for all is necessary in order to ensure that opportunities provided through ICT is accessible by all.
During the symposium, delegates outlined several steps that have been taken by various governments to ensure that education and particularly education relevant to ICT skills is continuously being provided to people. For example the Kenyan Government represented by both the Cabinet Secretary for Education and his counterpart from Information Communication and Technology told the delegates how the government has moved forward to implement the Digital Literacy Programme (ICT Integration in Primary Education). The Digital Literacy Programme is one of the two programmes by the Kenyan Government aimed at at ensuring that every citizen is IT literate – right from childhood.
The Universities and ICT training centers particularly those affiliated with ITU also outlined various programmes and courses they have, with most of them focusing to keep their students up to date with the changes that continue to shape the ICT landscape.
Although the various education approaches have remained important over the years, the one with the biggest impact was identified as self-learning. In one of the sessions, Dr Gilbert Saggia, Country Managing Director, Oracle Kenya, narrated how his 10 year old son was able to teach himself how to develop a game simply through watching YouTube videos. Back in 2012, Kelvin Doe from Sierra Leone impressed MIT with his ability to build his own batteries, generators, and transmitters, ability he acquired through learning from online sources. Anciently, self-taught individuals including Michael Faraday (invented electricity), James Watt (improved the steam Engine and honoured with the unit of power), Charles Darwin (originator of Darwinian evolution), Thomas Edison (inventor of light bulb), and Henry Ford (the Steve Jobs of automobiles) managed to make huge contributions to the progress of humanity, and this trend is not slowing down.
Today for example Virtual Reality is becoming a game changer in people’s lifestyles. Even though Virtual Reality concept and tech has existed since early 1950s, today’s revolutionary nature of VR owes it to Palmer Luckey who was mostly home schooled by his mother. “From ages 11 to 16”, Wikipedia explains, “he experimented with a variety of high-voltage electronics projects including coil guns, Tesla coils, and lasers. He built a PC costing tens of thousands of U.S. dollars with an elaborate six-monitor setup. He had an intense interest in virtual reality (VR), and built an extensive private collection of over 50 different head-mounted displays, often purchased at auction for a fraction of their original cost”.
Self learning cannot be over emphasized. Any nation that wants to shake the world through tech inventions and innovations must empower her citizens to self learn. The nation must provided the citizens with the means and tools to create – the means and tools to discover – and the means and tools to access the world’s repository of knowledge. The nation that wants to contribute to the advancement of technology must allow her citizens to access Unlimited & Affordable Internet.
Kachwanya.com put the question on whether there were plans by the Ministry of Information Communication and Technology and Communications Authority of Kenya to provide Kenyans with access to Unlimited & Affordable Internet during the 2016 ITU Global ICT Capacity Building Symposium. According to the Ministry and the Authority, Kenya is planning to rollout out programmes that will ensure that every citizen has access to unlimited $ affordable Internet real soon – and some of the plans are already being implemented. The current Internet environment in Kenya is such that only a few can afford to spend significant amounts of time to allow for adequate learning through the platform. The main barrier being affordability.
The most recent data from Communications Authority of Kenya say that roughly 37.4 million Kenyans have some form of Internet access (87.2% Internet penetration rate). The sad news is that 99.4% of these Kenyans can only do so via mobile Internet. The affordable Mobile Internet in Kenya today is through the renowned data bundles – a form of Internet that does not allow for freedom of video viewing, streaming, and heavy downloads.
The use of data bundles through mobile Internet therefore inhibits proper self learning that would be achieved through attendance of virtual schools and courses, and watching hours of YouTube or otherwise videos per day. The best thing Kenyans can do with their data bundles is to read a few Facebook gossip, linger in Twitter streets, and enjoy short comical or music videos.
Thus, when the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Information and Technology and Director General Communications Authority of Kenya told Kachwanya.com that plans are under way to ensure Kenyans will soon have access to unlimited affordable internet, we felt assured that the slow pace with which Kenyans create, invent, and innovate in ICT and other sectors is about to change.
Access to unlimited & affordable Internet will allow creative Kenyans, at individual levels and at own pace, to learn the skills required to build anything their minds imagine. In several instances, the tools needed for one to invent are already available at low cost – the reason inventors from places like Kenya don’t invent is due to lack of knowhow – knowhow that has been made available at close to zero cost via the Internet. Availing Unlimited & Affordable Internet to Kenyans cannot be taken for granted.