Digital villages yet to get to the villages three years on

Posted on January 13, 2011


Simply put, this is a failed promise.

The Digital Villages concept is fast approaching a dead-end, if it has already not hit one. And unless there is a serious re-think to the concept so that a new strategy is employed, this once promising idea may not be saved from its eminent deathbed.

Min of Information and Communication Dr Bitange Ndemo

The mainstream media has it that lack of funds is holding back several rural digital village initiatives.

Was all the money used during the colourful launch for the centers that were to herald the country into an unrivaled information technology (IT) neighbourhood of its kind in the region?

Since the launch, the Kenya Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Board has only established six such centers in Kangundo, Malindi, Mukuru Kayiaba in Nairobi, Kacheliba, Meru and Garissa. Yet, none looks promising.

The Business Daily reported that some of the centers have either closed shop or are facing possible closure. Three years later, hundreds of Kenyan youth, who were trained to take up positions as digital villages managers, remain idle later with no jobs as promised.

Speaking recently on PM Live a show on NTV, Information and Communication Permanent Secretary Dr Bitange Ndemo insisted that he has never presided over a white elephant project ever since he joined the government.

Well, this might just turn out to be the first one if no recourse is put in place. The digital village concept was first conceptualized years ago by the Information ministry, as part of a digital inclusion strategy aimed at easing access to technology in rural areas.

The Kenya ICT boss Paul Kukubo

The vision of the centers remains clouded only in the archives of great concepts that Kenya has had but with little will power and finance muscles to pull through.

The centers were and still are expected to act as hubs where users can access Internet services, obtain educational material.

With more innovations coming into the country on the IT platform, mobile and agency banking as well as money transfers, have been added to the menu of the centers if indeed they come to be. A noble proposal in theory, but hard questions now need to be asked to establish exactly why the project is yet to take off several years after its proposal.

The Kenya ICT Board says it is to relaunch the Pasha centers this month, with Family Bank expected to advance entrepreneurs up to Sh3 million to set up or expand existing digital access centers, “as a first step towards a revolving fund.”

What remains for the board’s chief executive officer Mr Paul Kukubo and Ps Ndemo is to act according to their word and make the concept work.

The World Bank, which was in the past blamed for the delay, is said to have allocated Sh800 million ($10 million) for this project.

A Pasha center banner

The new plan is that the Pasha centers (pasha is Kiswahili for inform) will be equipped with Internet-connected computers and managed under the Kenya Transparency Communication Infrastructure Project.

The digital centers are critical to the government in employment creation and use the platforms in boosting its e-programmes that aim at improving service delivery.

Posted in: Uncategorized