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Kenya ICT board learns tough lessons from digital villages project

Rebecca Wanjiku | April 30, 2013
Six years ago, the World Bank teamed up with the Kenyan government to launch an ambitious digital villages project, commonly known as "Pasha."

Another lesson is the entrepreneurship spirit -- is it trained or innate? We assumed that when people come with a nice presentation of how they will run and sustain (a business), that will be the case. We learned that we have to keep training and giving tips on how to run the business. The new contract with the private sector consultant will include this training for every recipient.

Bandwidth is still a major problem for businesses outside Nairobi; they do not have many options like those in the city do. We need to find a way to provide affordable connectivity to these businesses the way the Kenya Education Network (KENET) has done with colleges and universities. When I was building KENET, many people didn't get the concept and thought that the connectivity would only help the colleges and universities in cities and towns. Today, Maseno University, which is in a far flung area, is connected via KENET, but the businesses around Maseno still suffer from high bandwidth costs, meaning if we left it to the market, Maseno would still be without affordable connectivity.

CW: Are grants and funds the best way for the government to contribute to ICT growth?

VK: No. From the projects that I have witnessed in the ICT sector in Kenya and the Sub-Saharan Africa region, government play a better role ensuring policies and regulations that favor business growth. Our culture of "haki yetu" (our right) means that people have a feeling of entitlement just because the funds are from the government. There has been several projects in Africa that have failed; the biggest is the NEPAD ICT-in-education project that failed despite being backed by global technology giants and satellite providers. It shows that we need a change in our business and entrepreneurship culture and our work ethic for government funds to help and make an impact in the industry.


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