Kenya reaping the fruits of its digital transformation

The country is embracing the digital age and tech-driven development

In Summary

• Kenya is investing in digital infrastructure to enhance skills, innovation and services 

• Ruto's X Spaces drew global audience, hence affordable, inclusive public participation

President William Ruto during a Space engagement with Kenyans on X last Friday
President William Ruto during a Space engagement with Kenyans on X last Friday
Image: PCS

Events of the last few weeks have incontrovertibly demonstrated Kenya's comprehensive embrace of digital technologies. High-level citizen-government engagements are now being held on X Spaces, and big data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) increasingly drive national conversations.

Participants from remote locations like Lokichogio, Mount Elgon and Elwak, alongside those in global capitals, such as London, Paris, New York and Sydney, connected to the President’s interview on X Spaces on Friday, illustrating how digital technologies are now enhancing inclusion and public participation affordably.

This digital integration results from years of strategic infrastructural development, expanding broadband access, enhancing digital skills training, providing WiFi in unserved and underserved areas, and fostering an ecosystem conducive to digitalisation. Digital First has become the new normal in Kenya, reflecting significant strides in the country's digital transformation.

This progress is testament that the Kenya Kwanza Government's deliberate inclusion of ICT as one of the five pillars of the Bottom-Up Economic Transformation Agenda (Beta) is bearing fruits.


To realise Kenya’s digital agenda, the government has embarked on an ambitious five-year commitment to lay 100,000km of optic fiber infrastructure. As of June 2024, 10,219km of fiber have been laid across Kenya's 47 counties.

This project leverages KPLC's existing electricity transmission lines, enabling Kenya’s fiber optic cable backbone (NOFBI) to terminate at each of the 74,000 KPLC transformers and eventually to every meter in homes, businesses and institutions nationwide.

This approach significantly cuts costs, reduces implementation time-frames and facilitates easier maintenance. Expanding fiber optic connectivity by 100,000km will be a major milestone in Kenya's digital journey, targeting millions of homes and businesses, wards, police stations, health facilities, schools and other public institutions over the next five years.

Most importantly, it will form a strong foundation to realise the Fourth Industrial Revolution and play a significant role in our journey towards progress and prosperity.

To realise the benefits of this infrastructure, it must drive socio-economic transformation by opening up opportunities for job creation, supporting businesses and e-commerce, education, innovation, access to government services, e-health, e-agriculture and the creative economy.

To this end, the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Digital Economy (MoICDE) aims to install and operationalise 25,000 free public Wi-Fi hotspots in high-population areas, such as markets, bus stations and trading centres.

As of June 2024, the MoICDE, in partnership with other stakeholders, had installed 1,360 Free Wi-Fi Hotspots countrywide. Collaboration with KPLC and private sector ISPs will significantly increase these hotspots and enhance reach, while reducing rollout costs.

Access to digital resources and their benefits hinges on citizens possessing the requisite digital skills, technological know-how and digital literacy necessary to unpackage and optimise the benefits of technology.

This involves investment in equipping citizens with both basic, intermediate and advanced skills, resulting in experts capable of building and monetising ICT services, systems and programmes and intermediate and basic skills for communication and performing work-related tasks.

To achieve this, over the past 18 months, the MoICDE has connected 205 educational institutions, primarily TVETs, with 16,804 Internet access devices, and trained 516,505 individuals through the Jitume and Ajira programmes, leading to 152,711 youths securing ICT-related jobs, a key target of the digitalisation agenda.

To further enhance access, promote innovation and foster ICT literacy, the MoICDE plans to establish 1,450 digital innovation hubs, one in each ward. To date, 274 hubs have been operationalised, equipped with learning centres, working and innovation labs, WiFi hotspots and co-working spaces.

These hubs, with a capacity of 30-100 workstations, have the potential to train 300 youths and create a corresponding number of digital jobs per constituency. To support the establishment of these hubs, Parliament passed an amendment in November 2023 to allocate three per cent of the National Government Constituency Development Fund (NGCDF) for their construction and maintenance. The hubs project to train 180,000 individuals in relevant gig skills, creating more than 200,000 jobs by December 2024, and targeting one million digital jobs by 2027.


As part of the governments skilling agenda, it is in the process of establishing the Kenya Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (Kaist) at Konza Technopolis as an institution of strategic national importance.

Science, Technology and Innovation is considered a critical catalyst for fast tracking modernisation and transformation of Kenyan society into a knowledge based economy and a middle-income country by 2030. Construction of Kaist is at 54 per cent completion.

The government has also established and operationalised the Open University of Kenya (OUK) hosted at Konza, that offers courses on a virtual platform hosted, maintained and supported by Konza Technopolis. OUK is highlighting how digital technology is significantly reducing the cost of University education and increasing access.

The first intake of students is ongoing and so far 3,289 students have been admitted. Konza Technopolis has also established and fully operationalised a data centre that hosts 122 public and private sector clients and created opportunities for more than 94 ICT solution providers, innovators and private partners who have been onboarded and are currently co-creating innovative solutions and support services to the data centre through the Konza cloud.

To further reap the fruits of digitalisation, the government has seized the opportunity to infuse efficiency in service delivery to citizens by targeting to digitalise all government services, making them accessible within the comfort of their homes, workplaces or businesses.

Over the past 18 months, the MoICDE has fully digitalised and onboarded 17,668 government services onto the e-citizen portal, increasing citizen access to services, reducing corruption and revenue leakages, thereby enhancing government revenue collection.

To further improve efficiency, the MoICDE has installed 92 video conferencing facilities in all government ministries, the presidency and the office of the Prime Cabinet Secretary, with all Cabinet meetings going digital since January 2023.

To enhance digital access and promote e-commerce, the MoICDE is collaborating with the private sector to provide affordable smartphones to MSMEs and lower-income Kenyans. The East Africa Device Assembly Kenya Limited (EADAK) and MKOPA initiatives have jointly assembled 1.5 million phones locally, with 579,771 units sold, offering affordable options like the 'Neon Phones' retailing from Sh7,500.


These initiatives have created significant employment opportunities, directly employing 2,350 full-time staff and indirectly supporting about 12,000 more.

The MoICDE is also revitalising the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) by modernising its TV Centre, increasing FM radio coverage and upgrading digital terrestrial broadcasting infrastructure. KBC has facilitated 1,018 audiovisual productions through Studio Mashinani and is upgrading its infrastructure.

The Postal Corporation of Kenya (PCK) has achieved remarkable milestones, including clearing staff salary arrears, digitising business processes, introducing door-to-door delivery, generating Sh200 million in revenue from passport delivery and expanding EMS services. PCK has also increased its revenue from logistics services and is collaborating with Kemsa to deliver medical supplies.

To ensure the successful implementation of its programmes, the MoICDE has developed or progressed key legislation and policy frameworks. Key achievements include amendments to the National ICT Policy Guidelines 2020, the National Addressing System Bill, the ICTA Bill, the Technopolis Bill and the Kenya Information and Communications Act (Amendment) Bill.

The MoICDE Cabinet Secretary has also constituted a sector-working group to review legal and policy frameworks governing the mandate of the ministry with a view to aligning with changes in the operating environment and the new and emerging technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning, Internet of Things (IoT), Blockchain Technologies and Quantum Computing. The sector-working group is expected to submit its final report shortly.

Despite the substantial progress made, significant work remains in Kenya's ambitious digital transformation plan. The indicators are promising and the progress is encouraging. According to the World Bank, Kenya's ICT sector has outperformed every other sector, expanding by 23 per cent annually over the last decade. With continued participation and support, Kenya looks forward to sustained growth in the coming years.


The writer is the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Information, Communications and the Digital Economy

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