What you need to know:
- Why for example, should the Bungoma County hospital be maintaining patient records in manual forms when they can easily afford to implement any of the widely available digital hospital management systems?
- Why should a trader who owns a stall in the remote parts of Makueni County, be forced to make trips to the county headquarters in Wote, just to make routine payments for their business permits?
Last week, the Kenya ICT Action Network, (KICTAnet) and the ICT authority, held a consultative meeting with the ICT directors from the counties to discuss the outcome of the soon to be released report on the state of ICTs in the counties.
The study carried out by the KICTAnet research team sought to find out the extent to which the counties are adopting and leveraging ICTs in order to deliver on their county development plans.
Motivated by the slogan – Kenya is not Nairobi – KICTAnet believes that a meaningful ICT transformation at a national scale can only be achieved through enhancing the performance of ICTs at the county levels.
Put differently, if all the counties improved or made proper use of their ICT investments in delivering on their county development goals, then we can confidently claim that Kenya – rather than Nairobi – is the hotbed of innovation.
The county development plans outline the vision, objectives and the priorities of each county and includes the implementation matrix of key projects and activities that would be undertaken during the period under review.
Typical priority areas range from improving outcomes in health, early-childhood education, agriculture, trade, transport systems amongst others.
ICTs can be deployed to increase efficiencies and improve transparency in these domains - giving county residents a better governance and quality of life experience.
Why for example, should the Bungoma County hospital be maintaining patient records in manual forms when they can easily afford to implement any of the widely available digital hospital management systems?
Why should a trader who owns a stall in the remote parts of Makueni County, be forced to make trips to the county headquarters in Wote, just to make routine payments for their business permits?
Why should county governments struggle to ascertain the number of children registered in their early-childhood programmes, the number of teaching staff or whether these children attend class on a regular basis?
These are just a few of the many ‘ICT innovation moments’ or opportunities that that could be exploited by the county ICT directorates - as a way of contributing to the achievement of the county development goals.
But to do so, the county ICT directors must have full support from the county governors.
Unfortunately, the study revealed that most county ICT directors rarely get the necessary support from their governors - as reflected by the low levels of ICT budgets, under-staffing of ICT personnel, lack of continuous technical training amongst others.
In some counties, the ICT directorate is hidden under Finance, Education or other departments. This limits the scope and effectiveness of ICT directors in terms of providing strategic input to the rest of the county departments and residents.
The study also revealed some challenges between the national and county governments, particularly in the area of provisioning and effective use of national digital resources such as the National Optical Fiber Infrastructure (NOFBI).
The national fiber infrastructure, which was commissioned before the devolved governments were formed, was rightly terminated into the former district commissioner’s offices – most of which are currently occupied by the county commissioners.
In some counties, the governors offices are not necessarily in the same building or location as the county commissioners offices.
This means that county commissioners get to enjoy the NOFBI facility, while the governor’s offices have to make local arrangements to get connected.
However, in some earlier instances, particularly during the first 2013 Jubilee administration, some ‘opposition’ governors who had access to the NOFBI deliberated ruled against getting connected to it due to the then highly toxic political suspicions between the two levels of government.
Its is therefore critical for the national and county governments to have a neutral platform that brings all stakeholders together in order to dissect these and other challenges that stand between making Kenya – rather than just Nairobi – the true hotbed of innovation.
Kenya ICT Action Network, multi-stakeholder civil organisation has promised to provide such a platform and shall be publishing the current and future county ICT survey reports to address these challenges.