Technology can rapidly improve lives, says His Excellency (H.E.) Joseph Mucheru, Minister of Information, Communications and Technology, Kenya.
In a video interview at the 2018 ITU Plenipotentiary Conference held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Mr Mucheru explained that the government of Kenya is harnessing the power of ICTs to deliver benefits to Kenya’s people. Kenyans are using ICTs to communicate with their peers and to get information, learn about their health, buy goods, and vote.
“You can reach people anywhere in the world, even in the rural areas, by simply putting in wireless networks” — H.E. Joseph Mucheru
“Without technology,” said Mucheru, “we will not be able to move at the pace that we need to. We cannot leapfrog the way we need to leapfrog. Technology is key.”
Thanks to new technologies, Kenya is providing its people with better, more efficient government services, says Mucheru.
“We have centres such as the Huduma centres — Huduma means services — where citizens go now where they can get over 80 different government services in a one-stop shop,” said Mucheru.
ICTs are proving essential to the provision of universal health coverage in Kenya, which recently saw the launch of M-Tiba, a mobile health insurance system.
“We need to be able … to provide every Kenyan with health coverage, or health insurance,” explained Mucheru. “And one way to do that is ensure we have registered them, that we have got the right biometrics, so when they go to any health centre in the country, they are able to get services quickly.”
M-PESA, a ground-breaking mobile money system, is widely used by Kenyans. “Mobile money obviously is a big area for the country, stated Mucheru. “We have more than 80% of our adult population using mobile money. Actually more than three fourths of our GDP is transacted through mobile money… And we hope that will continue.”
According to Mucheru, enabling policies and frameworks, which encourage the involvement of the private sector, can help make ICTs more accessible and affordable.
He explained that while submarine cables are coming into the country, building wireless networks is less expensive than placing cables in the ground. “You can reach people anywhere in the world, even in the rural areas, by simply putting in wireless networks,” he said.
In addition to existing network operators, Google’s Loon project will soon enter the Kenyan market, said Mucheru. “We expect their balloons will come and that should hopefully give 4G coverage across the whole country,” said Mucheru. “We are also encouraging investors to come and invest in local manufacturing, so that we have the devices that can be used, whether it is phones, tablets, and so on,” he continued.
And Kenya is bringing the digital revolution to their schools to promote innovation. “The President is very committed to providing our young people with access to technology, so that even as they grow they can be the innovators that use technology to come up with new innovations,” says Mucheru.
Mucheru called for the need for global partnerships to prevent the global digital divide from widening.
“We’ve been talking a lot about the digital divide, but now one of the things we are worried about is that there can actually be an intelligence divide. Because we have moved into this age of now artificial intelligence … and these new technologies and services like Siri, Watson, and so on, they only speak one language and the rest of us are left out.”
Mucheru also said: “We really need to make sure we are harmonizing and working together across all the different markets so that we have equal access to all these opportunities.”
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