President William Ruto during the 59th Jamhuri Day celebrations at Nyayo National Stadium on December 12, 2022.

[Kelly Ayodi, Standard]

Kenyans could be staring at a digital revolution across the country, starting from how they access government services, browse the internet, earn from the digital space, employment and access to education.

Speaking during the 59th Jamhuri Day celebrations in Nairobi themed “Connect, Innovate and Inspire,” President William Ruto said his administration will install 100,000km of digital highway in form of fibre optic cables to enable internet access in every part of the country.

This is expected to serve 29,000 schools, 26,000 markets and 8.5 million homes with access to electricity.

“We have a target of one million jobs from our technology space. We’ve had a candid conversation with our technology and digital space leaders that Kenya… it is important that all of us understand the importance of technology and the place of innovation going into the future,” said Ruto.

It is however still unclear how the government will work with private companies to meet the target of one million jobs in the digital space.

However, recent efforts hint at a technological emancipation of the public using the internet and in turn have beneficiaries create opportunities for themselves and others.

A shift from national celebrations which centre mainly on politics, the President invited technology giants to the event including Meta (Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp’s parent company) and Google as the government looks to collaborate with the companies to steer Kenyans technology centric plan.

The Head of State noted that it is only through technology that the recently launched Hustler Fund has been able to record Sh15.4 million subscribers and lend out Sh7.54 billion in just 12 days of being operational.

Despite Kenya being a trailblazer in the continent in adopting technology in mobile money, e-commerce and digitisation of a range of services, Meta President of Global Affairs, Nick Clegg argued that such developments are just the beginning as the internet is expected to transition to the metaverse in the coming years.

According to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the Metaverse is the future of the internet.  Generally, the metaverse is a broad (and often speculative) shift in how we interact with technology and is expected to encompass (but not limited to) a more immersive 3D experience of the internet that will make us feel right there with another person or another place.

“We see the potential of the metaverse and want Africa to be central to its development that’s why we launched the XR programs and research funds. A two-year Sh1.8 billion investment to build the metaverse responsible including the support for African creators and developers,” said Clegg during the celebrations.

Google Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist Dr Vint Cerf described Kenya as a digital sprinter and assured of the company’s commitment to collaborate and work with the government to drive the digital transformation.

With youth heavily connected to the internet and the creative industry banking on revenue streams from digital platforms, the president committed to actualising a digital system that will ensure creatives get royalties and monetise their content.

“I have spoken directly to Meta (the parent company of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram) to monetise content for our digital entrepreneurs that would exponentially multiply their income and create employment opportunities for others. This is the way to the future,” said the President.

Ruto’s remarks were music to innovators’ ears given that many might benefit from what will come to be known as the Start-up Fund intended to support innovative ideas. Having passed its preliminary stages of setting it up, the President said the Start-up Fund will be taken as a Bill to Parliament so that start-ups can be supported.

“Through a dedicated Start-up Fund, the government will support the most innovative ideas each year to scale up into viable enterprises and commercial brands that will provide employment and drive economic growth,” he said.

In an effort to exploit technology for service delivery, Ruto’s administration is also planning to have what is called an open university within one year to democratise education and open the way for everyone to “quench their thirst for knowledge, education and training.”

The government also plans to migrate all its services to the digital platform in the next six to 12 months. Currently, only 15 per cent of government services are offered digitally.

“We intend to transfer 80 per cent of the remaining government services to the digital space so that every Kenyan can get services wherever they are; they do not have to get into any bus to go get government services,” said the Head of State.

The technology and innovation-themed Jamhuri Day comes days after the Kenya Innovation Week which attracted large global technology firms whose senior leaders made their way into the country to witness first-hand the magnitude of the country’s innovative potential.