It has bothered me in the last few years how good we are as a country when it comes to technology. Whenever you hear the Kenyan policy makers and hype men talk about Kenya you would think that in the whole world, there is nobody better than us. Of course when you ask for example of the ground breaking piece of technology that ever came from Kenya they would point you to Mpesa and for a while Ushahidi. The problem is Mpesa was not invented by Kenyans, but Kenyans were good at adopting it. So purely based on that we are good consumers of new technology and not inventors. Then the case of Ushahadi, though Ushahidi was seen to be ground breaking, technically it was not a good technology to talk about. As an idea it was great but technology-wise, they simply took existing mapping platform and used it to come up with Ushahidi. It is liking taking WordPress platform and customizing to come up with Kachwanya.com.
Ok, a part from the two, what else do we have? We are all over the map but nothing tangible to talk about. Of course one would mention payment systems, or Fintech, or Blockchain, or agribusiness or automation. In reality most of the work being done are low tech adopted from what others have done from elsewhere. That is not a bad thing anyway but also not something to qualify a country to the level of technology giant. As already mentioned, we are more technology consuming nation than creators. To understand this, look at some of the big platform in Kenya and ask yourself who have made them. Start from infamous IFMIS, then move to iTax or Kentrade used by KRA, then go to MPESA which was initially done by the guys at the Vodafone and modernized by Chinese at Huawei. In every sector you look at the technology they are using are made elsewhere and not in Kenya, be it ERP used in many offices, mobile based apps by Kenyan banks, and the tech used for core banking systems.
At this point one would ask, why is this so? The answer is simple, just like other things we like the sound of success but not the work or investment needed to succeed. For example, there are young guys who came up with anti-virus system, which by the way is as good as the best in the market. It started very well for them, by being recognized by ICT Authority at Connected Kenya back in 2016. Yours truly, was one of the judges for that year connected Kenya innovation awards and I saw a great future for those guys. Early this year BAKE in partnership with KEBS hosted what is known as BAKE experience for the KEBS and one of the guys who made the system came for the event. I was happy to see him and hoping to hear their latest part of their story. I did but it was not the happy one that I had expected, getting KEBS to approve the system became a nightmare for them. The guy came for the hoping that if he raised the issue publicly at the bloggers event, will force the KEBS hand to finally act on their issue. That happened and KEBS guys promised to help them as soon as possible. Hopefully they were helped but the point here is, two years down the line, Government officials frustrated them instead of helping them. Most of the time, people think when people call for Government support they are asking for money but most of the time what is needed is good policy framework, quick and timely approval process and easy to access public officials.
Even where we have gone digital it is still a problem to get things sorted out in good time. Recently, I wanted to register a company through e-citizen and went through the process of doing the search and reservations. After looking for the name which was available, I did pay as instructed on the site. Then added MPESA code to verify the payment and I was given a code but after that system still indicated that the payment was pending! I did the process again but still there was no breakthrough. So I decided to call the support team for help. There are several numbers listed there but unfortunately most of them are either out of service or busy all the time. Getting someone to help has been a problem. My colleague here at Kachwanya.com Odipo Riaga also experienced a similar stalemate when he was trying to replace his lost passport a while back.
There are many examples but for today I will leave it there and tell you something that will happen next month as part of effort to change attitude towards technology. My good friends at Techweez.com last week announced the coming to life of an annual technology conference called Tech Tamasha. Tech Tamasha aims at highlighting the best of what is happening in the republic and bringing together the region’s business and governmental titans fuelling innovation across different industries.
The launch of the conference was hosted at the Nailab, with a preliminary panel discussion featuring Anand Moha – COO at TechnoBrain, Khadija Abdul Project Manager at Google Digital Skills For Africa and Mike Nyaga – MD Digital Lending at Finserve, where the trio discussed on the new age Digital Consumer.
The conference will have two regional roundups in Mombasa and Kisumu on July 14th at the SwahiliBox and July 28th at the LakeHub respectively. The regional roundups purpose is to involve regional stakeholders in shaping the national innovation agenda. The roundups will then be preceded by the national summit that is set to take place in Nairobi on August 13th, with a focus on four pillars, namely; Blockchain, Security, Privacy and Policy, Digital Consumer and Entrepreneurship. The four pillars will be tackled through keynote deliveries and fireside chats. There will also be an opportunity for stakeholders to do product demos and possible product launches.
To culminate the conference, there will be Tech Tamasha awards. This is to recognize transformational organizations and individuals trailblazing change in the ecosystem. Most outstanding will be awarded under the following categories; finance, agriculture, healthcare, energy, education and social impact. There will also be special categories for founder of the year and startup of the year.
The process of selecting winners will be done internally by a select panel of judges and the Tech Tamasha team, however, the public is welcome to submit nominations for the awards on www.tamasha.tech