▶ African na­tion aims to cover en­tire pop­u­la­tion un­der 4G net­work by early next year and col­lab­o­rate with UAE

The National - News - - BUSINESS - ALKESH SHARMA

Kenya, which is home to al­most 25 mil­lion peo­ple be­low the age of 19, is aim­ing to use the lat­est tech­nol­ogy to en­hance the coun­try’s mo­bile money net­work.

Kenya also hopes to ex­pand its ser­vices across the whole of Africa in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the UAE.

“We are work­ing with the UAE Govern­ment to find out ways to es­tab­lish the right machin­ery in Kenya that will en­able us to of­fer lo­gis­tic ser­vices across the re­gion us­ing tech­nol­ogy.

“A lot of things are go­ing on with the UAE,” Joe Mucheru, Kenya’s Min­is­ter of In­for­ma­tion and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Tech­nol­ogy, told The Na­tional..

“As a coun­try, we are only 50 mil­lion but as Africa we are 1.3 bil­lion. Our heads of trade have al­ready signed con­ti­nen­tal free trade area agree­ments. In Kenya, our aim is clear ... to go be­yond ge­o­graph­i­cal bound­aries.

Mr Mucheru, speak­ing in Dubai where he is at­tend­ing In­ter­na­tional Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion Union’s con­fer­ence, said: “We are a young coun­try ... up to half [of the pop­u­la­tion] are be­low 19 years. And all these young peo­ple are on mo­bile where most of the tech­nol­ogy is re­sid­ing these days.

“Our aim is to cap­i­talise on this cul­ture and ex­pand the web of mo­bile money fur­ther,” he said, adding, “Over 75 per cent of Kenya’s adult pop­u­la­tion is us­ing mo­bile money and this num­ber is much more than the in­di­vid­u­als us­ing phys­i­cal bank­ing ser­vices.”

Mo­bile money tech­nol­ogy, which is also re­ferred to as mo­bile wal­let, al­lows peo­ple to re­ceive, store and spend money via a mo­bile phone.

“We are trans­act­ing the whole GDP of the coun­try through mo­bile money … It’s around $70 bil­lion an­nu­ally, so you can imag­ine the vol­ume of money in­volved,” said Mr Mucheru.

The Kenyan ICT min­istry is also ex­e­cut­ing a project to cover the en­tire pop­u­la­tion un­der a na­tional health scheme where a sin­gle health card will al­low peo­ple to use ser­vices any­where in the coun­try.

Au­thor­i­ties are col­lect­ing bio­met­ric data of res­i­dents and sub­se­quently health cards car­ry­ing that in­for­ma­tion will be is­sued. Cit­i­zens can ac­cess any med­i­cal fa­cil­ity across Kenya, us­ing them.

“We have be­gun a coun­try­wide roll-out of [dig­i­tal] ser­vices and grad­u­ally it will be ex­panded across the re­gion,” said Mr Mucheru. “We are work­ing to­wards cre­at­ing sin­gle dig­i­tal mar­ket in Africa. There should be a sin­gle ID al­low­ing in­di­vid­u­als and busi­ness to ac­cess ser­vices [dig­i­tally] in en­tire Africa.”

“Tech­nol­ogy can unify all African na­tions and we are keep­ing all pol­i­tics and any other re­gional is­sues out of it.”

Twenty-one of the 25 least-con­nected coun­tries in the world are in Africa and only 22 per cent of the con­ti­nent’s pop­u­la­tion has ac­cess to the in­ter­net, ac­cord­ing to the World Bank Group, which launched the Dig­i­tal Econ­omy for Africa ini­tia­tive in April this year to bring to­gether African fi­nance and ICT min­is­ters, cen­tral bank gover­nors and global tech and tele­com gi­ants.

Nearly 78 per cent of Kenya’s pop­u­la­tion is cov­ered un­der a 3G net­work and the ICT min­istry plans to cover the en­tire na­tion un­der 4G by next year.

“We are work­ing in part­ner­ship with pri­vate play­ers like Google and Al­pha­bet to have 100 per cent de­ploy­ment of 4G net­work us­ing bal­loons by the first quar­ter of 2019,” said Mr Mucheru. “I think Kenya will be the first coun­try to have com­mer­cial de­ploy­ment of bal­loons for 4G con­nec­tiv­ity.”

To cover re­mote ar­eas, bal­loons are placed at an al­ti­tude of about 18 kilo­me­tres and used to cre­ate an aerial wire­less net­work.

Har­ness­ing tech­nol­ogy, Kenya’s ICT min­istry is of­fer­ing al­most 100 govern­ment ser­vices through its on­line plat­form e-cit­i­zen ser­vice. It con­sid­ers fi­nan­cial ser­vices, tech­nol­ogy and busi­ness ser­vices, agri­cul­ture and health as the top four game-chang­ers in Kenya’s eco­nomic fu­ture.

“We are ex­plor­ing how we can use blockchain and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence to of­fer more cit­i­zen-cen­tric ser­vices.” said Mr Mucheru. “ICT is just an en­abler and we are in­vest­ing heav­ily in dif­fer­ent sec­tors.”

We are trans­act­ing the whole GDP of the coun­try through mo­bile money … It’s around $70bn an­nu­ally JOE MUCHERU Kenta ICT min­is­ter

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