Ruto: We will convert Mulot into an innovation hub

A temporary ICT lab at Mulot sunset in Bomet county where the government is constructing a software development factory,  in East Africa in this photo taken on July, 29, 2022

Photo credit: Vitalis Kimutai | Nation Media Group

The bid to transform Mulot trading centre in the border of Bomet and Narok counties from a cyber crime hub in East Africa to Kenya's Silicon Valley has received Presidential backing. 

President William Ruto has given the go-ahead to the Ministry of Information and Communications (ICT) to proceed with construction of the multi-billion software development factory - billed as the only one in Africa. 

From Konza City, the focus in innovation in Kenya and the region will now shift to Mulot in what clearly shows the positive policy shift by the government to focus on counties. 

Dr Ruto on Sunday directed Bomet Governor Hillary Barchok to ensure the county government secures 100 acres of land for setting up of the facility near Mulot Sunset trading centre in Bomet East constituency. 

Prof Fredrick Owino, the ICT Authority board chairman unveils a plague on behalf of Cabinet Secretary for Information Communication Technology (ICT) Mr Joe Mucheru during the ground breaking ceremony on July, 29, 2022

Photo credit: Vitalis Kimutai | Nation Media Group

"In the shortest time possible, I want you to secure land and report back within two months on the progress made so we can move with speed and set up the ICT centre and turn the area to a software development hub in the region" Dr Ruto said. 

Dr Ruto said the move would transform the economy of the region and create employment opportunities, with some having been forced to engage in cybercrime. 

It followed an appeal by Senate Majority Aaron Cheruiyot who said the government should transform the town into an ICT hub and help shed it's dubious distinction as the home to mobile banking transfer fraud in the region.

"This region has youths who are IT savy but for lack of jobs, they have turned into cyber crime. There is a need to tap their talents and make it into good use" Mr Cheruiyot said. 

"We are urging the government to channel at least Sh 1 billion to construct the ICT facility in Mulot so as to turn around the economy and create employment opportunities" Mr Cheruiyot stated. 

Professor Barchok said the county has availed 4.5 acres of land and another 15 acres was available for use and that the government will engage local community to cede their property for construction of the project. 

“We are happy that finally, an ICT hub of a global phenomenon is being set up in Mulot by the government which will create a number of other opportunities for the residents,” Professor Barchok said. 

Professor Fredrick Owino, the ICT Authority board chairman had in July last year, presided over the ground breaking ceremony for construction of the centre at the site near Mulot Sunset trading centre. 

Professor Owino represented then Cabinet Secretary for ICT Joe Mucheru whose flight was cancelled in the last minute due to what was attributed to as bad weather. 

Believed to be working with rogue bank employees and mobile phone service companies , hundreds of youths have illegaly transfered and withdrawn millions of shillings from accounts held by individuals. 

A number of the suspects are said to working with police officers who leak to them information on impending raids and whenever they are being trailed. 

Last year, all the signs erected by the government indicating the Mulot central and Mulot (old town) – in Narok side of the border and Mulot Sunset in Bomet - were vandalized, in what is thought to be an attempt by some people to disguise the identity of the trading centres to travellers plying the Nairobi-Narok-Bomet-Kisii highway. 

“We need 100,000 software engineers to develop programs and provide professional support to institutions and business enterprises,” Mr Mucheru said in the speech read by Professor Owino. 

“Kenya is a strategic power house in software development being deployed locally and for export. The Mulot software factory will host multinational technology companies and we are looking forward to great outcomes,” Mr Mucheru stated. 

Dr Paul Kipronoh Ronoh, the then acting Director General of the ICT Authority and now the Principal Secretary for Water said setting up of the factory was in line with the department’s master plan to set up two software and hardware factories in the country. 

Free Wifi and high speed internet connectivity will be provided by the government for the residents at the factory which will also host Ajira Youth Program and training of the general public on ICT. 

“The state of the art software factory to be constructed in Mulot, will drive digital transformation in Africa, spur economic growth and create employment opportunities across the country,” Dr Ronoh said. 

Dr Ronoh revealed that there were 26 million software engineers in the world, 700,000 being in Africa out of which 70,000 were Kenyans. 

“It is projected that in 2030, there will be a demand globally for 45 million software engineers to merge the analogue and digital platforms. Clearly, there is a need for Kenya to train more software engineers to bridge the gap nationally and globally,” Dr Ronoh said.

He noted that Bomet county has a comparative advantage in software development with many professionals in the sector coming from the area which has highly talented youths in the field, which will now be harnessed and put into good use. 

“Youths around this area should utilize the factory to use technology positively and earn a living legally. I want to assure those (hackers) hiding in bushes and isolated houses that we are watching and and profiling them. The internet does not forget and the long arm of the law will catch up with you, however long it takes,” Dr Ronoh said. 

Mr John Tonui, the former Chief Executive Officer of the Konza Technopolis and now a Principal Secretary said there were vast opportunities in software development across the world. 

“We will link the Mulot software factory to international platforms across the globe so that the skills and capabilities of youths in the region can positively be used to drive development and solve the myriad of challenges as ICT becomes integral part of daily transactions,” Mr Tonui said. 

It has emerged that many ICT professionals both in the private, corporate and public sector are from the region. 

Ms Magdalene Chepkemoi, an Eldoret based software engineer who hails from the area revealed that professionals in the sector who come from the area were being wrongly carrying the burden of cyber crime in the region. 

“When we introduce ourselves as coming from Mulot, people cheekily say it is time for them to switch off their phones (so they do not get swapped – a term that has been used for fraudulent mobile phone money transfer)..It is really bad story that this area needs to shed,” Ms Chepkemoi said. 

Mulot Sunset trading centre in Bomet county which is a hub for cyber crime involving school drop outs

Photo credit: Vitalis Kimutai | Nation Media Group

She said there was a need for investors to tap into the setting up of the factory and grow the local trading centre to a major town and business hub. 

“There is a need to equip young people with skills as key stakeholders in the digital transformation in the country, train them and provide apprenticeship programs, leverage on their creativity and change Mulot from a cyber crime hub to our own Silicon valley,” Ms Chepkemoi said. 

Ms Hilda Moraa, a youthful but prominent Nairobi based software engineer said it was possible to build the ICT innovative hubs in villages, away from the hustle and bustle of major towns and cities. 

“It is important to prop up young people to drive innovations so that they can use technology in the right way to solve problems facing the society,” Ms Moraa said. 

Ms Moraa said major technology companies including Google and Microsoft should be able to tap local talents on software development. "In fact Mulot will provide a major source for software engineers in Africa" 

Professor Winston Agalla, the Principal Koitalel University College says devolution had created a major paradigm shift in the development across the country in the last 10 years with a focus on rural set ups. 

Professor Agalla said parents should discard habits of snatching mobile phones from their young children as their toying with the gadgets could be an indication that their interest is in the ICT sector. 

Ms Stella Rotich a software engineer at Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) said setting up the factory will make Bomet county rise up on the path in the ICT sector. 

“As a matter of fact many professionals especially software developers are from this region and this project will go a long way in inspiring more youths to pursue ICT related courses,” Ms Rotich stated. 

Mr David Mutai alias Hillary Langat aka Matindwet was arrested recently in Kericho after he defrauded a Member of Parliament of Sh 941,000. 

The man believed to by detectives as one of the Mulot sim swap masterminds is allegges to have defrauded the legislator who was at the time on an official trip outside the country between December 1 and 2. 

He has since been charged and released on a Sh 300,000 cash bail in one of the latest high profile incidences linking youths from the area and cyber crime. 

Mr Peter Mwanzo, the immediate former Kasarani sub county police Commander (currently serving in Nakuru county) is one of the high profile victims to lose money to the swim swap from his bank account. 

“Within less than six hours the money had been transferred from his Equity Bank account in a mysterious incident on January 4 this year,” Mr Mwanzo stated in a testimony before Mary Mwendwa, a magistrate at the Milimani law courts. 

Mr Mwanzo stated that he repeatedly received calls from a private number which he did not pick, which prompted him to put the phone on a flight mode , but when he deactivated the application five minutes later, his phone did not pick up the signal. 

The following day, he visited Safaricom offices and was advised to replace the Simcard which had been deactivated, but when he turned it on eventually, he was shocked to find the money had been transferred from his bank accounts. 

A suspect- Gideon Mark – has been charged with the fraudulent transaction in a matter that is ongoing in court. 

Due to police crackdown, some of the suspects have transferred their areas of operations to Nairobi, Kajiado, Uasin Gishu and Kiambu counties where they have repeatedly been busted, arrested and prosecuted.