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The East African : May 12th 2014
The EastAfrican BUSINESS MAY 10-16,2014 The mo≥e we tell Konza City sto≥y, the mo≥e it g≥ows T he relationship between information and communications technology (ICT) and economic de- velopment has been the topic of numerous studies, and we need look no further than South Africa and more recently Nigeria to see how ICT has driven wider growth. The most often cited Kenyan example of technological success is M-pesa — an innovation that was ahead of international markets, and that singlehandedly drove Kenya forward on the road to greater financial inclusion through mobile banking. Numerous technology hubs have sprung up across the continent in the past few years to harness the potential that ICT has to offer. Last year, Ghana announced plans to create its own IT hub — Hope City — similar to Egypt’s Smart Village Cairo and Ebene Cyber-City in Mauritius. Under Konza City virtual roof, we will put Kenya’s on the technology world map. Konza’s unique position as a private-public partnership has seen the government offering the land and committing to build the key infrastructure, including electricity, water, rail and roads. The private sector will take responsibility for other elements fundamental to the running of a “city,” including schools, health facilities and corporate real estate. Investment in ICT stands as a key plank of the Vision 2030 strategy. The start of bricks and mortar construction marks an important chapter in Kenya’s technology story. Africa’s Silicon Savannah will undoubtedly set up a tremendous multiplier effect: It is expected to create 20,000 jobs and grow GDP by Ksh10 billion ($113 million), but this initia- 43 story offers a huge opportunity for scaling up all our indigenous businesses, and the best way to do this is to implement digital business retooling solutions. IT tools to improve organisational development and operational effectiveness, driving better governance and easier processes for succession planning, particularly for family owned businesses that need to scale up. So, Kenyan business leaders, including the important small and medium enterprise (SME) sector, need to become Konza City’s cheerleaders. Business owners must be per- COMMENTARY NJERI RIONGE “Konza City has always been about much more than the physical design and infrastructure of 5,000 acres of land,” tive stands for much more than that. Konza City has always been about much more than the physical design and infrastructure of 5,000 acres of land in Makueni County. As East Africa’s first “technopolis,” it is a crucial signal of our intent, a symbol of the breadth of our ambition and our commitment to becoming a future technology nation. When I led Wananchi Online, the biggest challenge we faced was the execution conversation — sign up was slow: We needed to educate and sensitise people on the advantages of technology. Kenya’s retired president Mwai Kibaki lays the foundation stone of Konza City in last year. Picture: File To share the story of how the Internet would benefit citizens, we created an infomercial dubbed Allabout.com and ran a one-minute advert before and after prime time news. Viewers of the infomercial were quick to tell us how they had learnt about IT and its benefits from the advert, and they were proud to share their individual stories with us. This is what we must commit to do on behalf of Konza City. We must tell the story of ICT as an enabler and remind people that it truly is open to all. That may sound simplistic, but mass access is the only way, because together we are stronger. We have this amazing infra- structure now in Kenya in terms of broadband provision and available bandwidth, but we are not using it. The next step is to develop content. The more peo- ple who store information and use the cloud within their business operations, the more bandwidth is deployed and the more the cost reduces. There is power in numbers and that is why the education part becomes so important. It’s the same with the Konza City story, the more of us who talk about it, support it, drive business to it, the faster it will grow, the louder the buzz will be internationally and the taste pace of change. We must ensure that Kenyan ICT companies are well represented and are drawing on the arrival of international players to supercharge their own success. Konza City cannot become an outpost for international technology expertise; Kenyan technological advances must be embedded into its very fabric. In fact, the African growth suaded as to the transformative effect technology can have upon their own businesses, by automating their systems or moving into the cloud — be it better inventory management, more effective customer service measures or robust reporting, there are IT solutions that can help you to do this and that will cut your costs by improving efficiencies. Cloud computing is a particu- larly cost-effective solution for SMEs because hardware is virtualised, providing users with the flexibility and performance of dedicated servers at much lower costs. Kenyan business owners need to recognise the opportunities that IT offers and to tell this story to their peers and their customers. Together, we can ensure the future impact of Konza City extends far beyond the physical buildings and infrastructure of the development, into a new collective vision and a technologically savvy mindset — let’s look beyond the bricks and mortar and move to the cloud! Njeri Rionge is the CEO of In- site Ltd, a technology business that develops online business solutions. Kenya’s technology hub on cou≥se as US fi≥m wins tende≥ By PAMELLA SITTONI The EastAfrican AWAY FROM a court case over the sale of a ranch, and squabbling over the county in which Kenya’s technology hub is located, the development of Konza City is proceeding uninterrupted. The technology city is expected to position Kenya as a leading ICT destination by expanding the country’s technology-focused industries. The EastAfrican has established Konza City Develoipment Authority chairman John Ngumi. Picture: File that the Kenyan government is set to award a Ksh2,192,410,000 ($25,621,397) contract to an American firm, Tetra Tech, to develop the first phase of the technology city to world-class smart city standards by 2018. Tetra Tech won the tender over Dar Al-Handasah Consultants of Lebanon, which bid Kshs 2,531,970,000 ($29,589,584). In addition, the University of Nairobi is about to complete the cadastral survey parcelling out the 5,000 piece of land for all the developments. These are some of the preliminary processes the Konza Technopolis Development Authority (KOTDA) has had to undertake before the actual structures that will host the technology hub come up. But the near lack of activity at the site has given rise to speculation that the project, described as Africa’s Silicon Valley, is a white elephant. “I think as KOTDA, we did two things wrong: We raised expectations high and we did not contextualise Konza … and we then got sucked into all the preliminary work that had not been done, forgetting that out there, was a public that had been sold a story, and a picture had been painted. “The biggest mistake we’ve made is communication, and within that is over hype,” said John Ngumi, the authority’s chairman. The biggest challenge for the authority is to help Kenyans to con- ceptualise the hub, without putting too much emphasis on the structures, Mr Ngumi added. “Konza is not a city: It is a con- cept that lies at the heart of an ecosystem. The idea is to focus and concentrate minds, resources, technology in one pot house, which then releases vapours, gases and effects, which then affect the rest of the economy. A typical tech city is California, which has various activities; universities, research centres connected to industries as opposed to pure research, industries connected to manufacturers .... the whole idea behind Konza is the pot house, the buildings are incidental. The key thing is the people and the linkages to the rest of the economy, like tourism, agriculture, manufacturing — which must have a technology base.” According to the country’s de- velopment blueprint, Vision 2030, the standard gauge railway from Mombasa to Kampala will pass through Konza while the largest international airport, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, will be linked to Konza by the road. But Mr Ngumi noted that the process has not been without hitches. For example the National Environment Management Authority is yet to give approval for the project. On the ongoing survey, Mr Ngumi said: “This has again not been well understood. What we want to do is to parcel out land for people to develop houses. What the survey needs to do is to identify where the sewer should be, where each piece of land is. The survey will ensure every development is consistent with the master plan. At the moment the Kenya Power, the Ministry of Water, and the Ministry of Roads are on standby to start their work, but until the survey is done, they can’t.” Tetra Tech will design the pieces of land as well as undertake branding and marketing.
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May 19th 2014