INFORMATION COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY IN KENYA
Governments globally appreciate the role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in national development. ICT’s are key to transforming traditional economies into information and knowledge-based economies. In the vision geared towards an “Intelligent Island”, Singapore perceives ICTs as the engine for promoting development and growth, and also gaining global competitive advantage
KPTC continued to deliver to deliver the services with increased inefficiency and with no trade or value addition up to 19988 when reforms were introduced.
· Since then the sector has been gradually liberalised with enormous impact
· The mobile telephony and internet services in particular have achieved tremendous growth in a few years. However, the country is poorly services in fixed access telecommunication services, waiting time for connection is excessive, tele-density is low, geographical coverage, poor (but improving), telephone calls very expensive and broadband internet access is limited and expensive.
· Frequent policy reversals, poor infrastructures and low capacity, high capacity, high cost and lack of legal and regulatory framework for execution of e-business are still major constraints on business competitiveness in the country.
· The recognition on the critical role of ICT in development is shown with the enactment of PRSP Poverty Reduction Strategy for Wealthy and Employment Creation 2003 – 2007 which are committed towards the attainment of knowledge-based society status.
Developments in Policy, Legal framework & Structures of Telecommunication
These have undergone tremendous changes in the last decade with the sector moving being monopolistic and inefficient to a vibrant sector of the economy.
- 1977 – KPTC act was enacted to take over services from EAP & TC and no major reforms until 1990 when government relaxed controls of non strategic services e.g internal wiring, services of equipments etc.
- 1992 – KPTC introduced cellular phones in an experimental way.
- 1993 – African Regional Centre for computing in conjunction with African online introduced internet services. The operating climate was not conducive.
- 1996 – Further decontrols introduced external wiring, supply of equipment and installations.
- 1998 – Kenya communications act was enacted, repealing KP & TC to usher in new regulatory framework and policies. KP & TC was split into three in 1999 into 3 independent bodies:-
1. Communication Commission of Kenya as a regulator.
2. Telkom to provide communication services
3. Postal Corporation of Kenya to offer postal services
Although the sector was opened for competition, Telkom was shielded for sometimes with some areas left exclusive to Telkom. Exclusivity were in the areas of
– International gateways
- Roaming facilities and international links.
- Internet backbone
- Broadcast signal distribution.
Other reforms included:-
1) Privatization of Telkom – through sale of 49% of it stake to a strategic partner was to be done in 2003. Was however privatized in 2007. The Government of Kenya sold 51% stake to French Company and Telkon has since then re-branded to Orange.
2) Competition – Plans to license the 2nd national fixed telephony by June 2005 and 3rd mobile operator by December 2005.
3) Equity participation – the guidelines of 1999/2001 required investors to have at least 70% of it equity in local hand. However ICT required heavy investment and this proved hard to Kenyan investors. This was reduced to 60%. In addition, the market segment requiring minimal investment was preserved for SME investors thus building the requisite local entrepreneurial capacity for expansion into higher ICT enterprises.
1) Suitable environment for private sector participation in ICT especially modules and internet services. This saw the emergence of many cyber cafes, sales outlets for mobile handsets, scratch cards, accessories, repairs, simu ya jamii etc
2) Competition and equity participation from both local and international investors especially in the TV and Radio broadcasts
3) New market structures for provision of telecommunication services due to the expected high competition, Telkom Kenya was granted exclusivity/monopoly up to 2004 on all services except – customers premised equipment, internal external wiring, value local telephone access services (monopoly in Nairobi for LTAS)
4) Increased participation by SMEs in the non Telkom exclusive services such as provision of equipments, customer services, repairs, training etc.
5) Lower costs of communication and equipments
6) Increased trade through e-commerce
Main stakeholders in the telecommunications
ü Ministry of information and communication.
ü NCS – National Communication Secretariat.
ü Appeals Tribunal.
ü GITS – Government Information Technology Services.
ü Directorate of E-Government.
ü Ministry of Education Science and Technology (under mandate of National Council of Science and Technology)
ü Kenya Bureau of Standards - e.g. masts, transmitters etc,
ü NEMA – impact on environment.
ü Customer premises equipment vendors.
ü Computing and Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
Telephones Providers - Safaricom, Zain, Econet wireless, Orange
Where else, besides the existing businesses can small enterprises invest in ICT?
Provide E –
assisted technologies in government in order to improve service delivery e.g in
e-business/e- commerce, e- learning/tele-education; e –health/tele-medicine
medical information, linkages to services, Skilled diagnosis, Distribution of
medical services would reduce the costs.
E-assisted prescriptions in rural areas can save on Consultations e.g AMREF want to combine telemedicine and flying doctor and reach patients in rural areas through ICT – General Pocket Radio Services (GPRS) - technology
2. Electronic preservation and documentation of cultural resources.
3. Research through electronic media.
4. Food security and Agriculture by developing information systems to improve access to markets and trade to safeguard food security. Farmers to access urban and international markets (tele-info centres to be set up)
5. Environmental monitoring and assessment of natural resources forests, wildlife, fisheries.
6. Monitoring of climate and other related changes for appropriate intervention strategies. Spread to COMESA region.
Challenges/obstacles to ICT growth
1. Poor infrastructure – Quality of fixed line infrastructure in poor and the proportion of non operational lines is significant congestion of international gateway is a problem for many because which largely only on online applications for their operation.
2. General economic climate – This is not favorable with low GDP, volatile inflation rates and a slow growth rate – its improving.
3. Lack of protection of intellectual properly rights – No legislation protecting copyright, little incentive to develop software applications and as there is no mechanism to prosecute those involved in software piracy is 80% of all software are pirated – not easy to prove (Microsoft)
in the awarding of government ICT tenders.
- Hinders participation.
- Unclear and non-transparent.
5. Low success rate in implementing ICT projects. – Success rate of government projects is low while institutional memory is poor and new projects need to be started from scratch due to lack of recorded experiences.
6. Low levels of awareness of the applications and benefits ICTS – In government circles big concern, need for IT seminars, and promotion of ICT through projects.
7. Poor to non existent availability of financing for ICT project.
8. High and unpredictable tariffs on ICT equipment – Tariffs range for 5 – 30%, Custom officials lack knowledge ICT equipment.
9. Lack of enabling environment for entrepreneurs – No investment capital for ICT entrepreneurs, High interest for available capital, long periods of registering new companies, 10% tax on airtime.
10. Corporate governance is an issue both for
start ups and established because, - No management structures set up, reporting
is an issue, do not encourage foreign investor.
Recommendations for improving ICT opportunities
friendly fiscal and related policies e.g.
- removal of 10% airtime tax.
- duty free ICT equipment as per WTO – ITA – International Technology Agreement
resources development policy.
- Incorporation of ICT in the school curriculum primary to university.
- Civil servants.
3. Planning and investment in infrastructure to support a growing ICT industry and improve connectivity – e.g. High capacity internal back bone.
4. Legal and regulatory framework that that service delivery and safeguard the interest of investors and users.
5. Further liberation of telecommunications services – internet based.
6. Encourage of implementation of e-government services as these will improve government by reducing corruption and improve efficiency of service delivery.
7. Promotion of the development of local content on the internet to promote local activities and education