CALL

Kenya rallies regional peers on ICT integration

Nairobi is hosting the EACO 29th Annual Assemblies and Extra-Ordinary Congress.

In Summary

•Among what Kenya is pushing for is all EAC member states to jump on board the One-Area-Network (ONA).

•Kenya is also keen on cyber security, SIM card registration, and standardisation of ICT equipment and services in the region, among others.

Information, Communications and the Digital Economy Cabinet Secretary, Eliud Owalo /FILE
Information, Communications and the Digital Economy Cabinet Secretary, Eliud Owalo /FILE

Kenya has now called on her East African Community (EAC) peers to harmonise legal and regulatory frameworks to increase integration in Information Communication and Technology.

This, it says, will help the region tap into growing opportunities in the digital space, a major driver of economies across the globe.

According to Kenya’s Information, Communications and the Digital Economy Cabinet Secretary, Eliud Owalo, harmonisation of legal and regulatory regimes, for instance, will go a long way to provide a united approach to leveraging the full benefits of the digital economy.

Among what Kenya is pushing for, is all EAC member states to jump on board the One-Area-Network (ONA).

The initiative mooted in 2014, with Rwanda, Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda as pioneers, has enabled easy communication across the EAC partner states, where roaming costs have been harmonised and calls across these countries are treated as local calls.

“The success of the one network area has contributed significantly to increased interaction and deepening integration in the region. I wish to urge member states who are yet to implement the framework, to consider embracing it for the good of the people of this region,” Owalo said.

He spoke during the East African Communications Organisation (EACO) 29th Annual Assemblies and Extra-Ordinary Congress, in Nairobi, on Monday.

Other areas Kenya is keen on include cyber security, SIM card registration, and standardisation of ICT equipment and services in the region, e-waste and green ICTs, which remain critical in catalysing the attainment of digital transformation goals.

“As the EAC grows with additional member states, our collective strength towards implementing some of these bold and progressive ideas should be more emboldened,” the CS said.

New entrants into the EAC bloc, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, are among those being urged to integrate their ICT frameworks.

The call by Kenya comes as the government continues to push for further growth in the digital space.

The government’s Bottom-up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA) has primed ICTs as a critical enabler of economic growth and has identified deliberate interventions to make this a reality, Owalo affirmed.

The Ministry and the Communication Authority of Kenya (CA) are leading the country’s Digital Transformation Agenda.

As of March, this year, Kenya had a 132.1 per cent mobile penetration, 51.2 million internet subscribers and 38.6 million mobile money users.

The country’s smartphone penetration rate is currently at about 67 per cent, according to CA.

“The authority strives to keep average access charges for services such as mobile voice, data and Internet affordable for all,” Communications Authority Director General, David Mugonyi, said.

He said the authority is committed to ensuring 100 per cent 3G and 4G population coverage. 4G contributes up to 51.5 per cent of total mobile data subscriptions.

Telecommunication companies in the country are also increasing 5G technology, which Mugonyi said will present new opportunities for all sectors of the economy.

“The use cases for this technology in Kenya are immense and we believe it will make a significant contribution to allowing us to participate in fourth industrial revolution,” he said.

The Authority, through the Universal Service Fund, is supporting the deployment of ICT in unserved and underserved areas of the country, with over 750,000 people connected in the last five years.

A majority of government services are also moving online and the authority is charged with securing Kenya's cyberspace, enhancing cybersecurity readiness and scaling up threat detection and prevention capabilities.

Themed “Promoting digital transformation in the EAC region,’’ the Nairobi meeting provides EAC member states with an opportunity to reflect individual and collective efforts, CS Owalo said, and leverage the power of digital transformation to grow the region’s economies.

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