The Kenyan government has set its sights on Nakuru County, with a pioneering initiative that promises to elevate local businesses, empower small-scale traders, and bridge the unemployment gap. The focal point of this innovative endeavor is the installation of free Wi-Fi hotspots in the vibrant markets of Nakuru, heralding a new era of digital connectivity.
On November 4, 2023, Nakuru Wakulima Market became the first beneficiary of this groundbreaking venture, symbolizing the government’s commitment to digitization and economic transformation. With a radius of 300 square meters, the newly installed Wi-Fi hotspots are poised to reshape the way business is conducted in this bustling market.
Engineer John Tanui, the Principal Secretary of the State Department for Information, Communication, Technology, and Digital Economy, spearheaded this ambitious project. His vision is clear: to empower traders, from the local “Mama mbogas” to Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), with the tools to sell their products and wares through social media networks. The goal is simple yet profound – to attract a vast clientele and revolutionize business operations.
Engineer Tanui highlighted the significance of digital connectivity, noting that being online is the key to understanding and participating in the ever-evolving business landscape. He emphasized that the introduction of free Wi-Fi will enable traders to reach a global audience, locally and abroad, while streamlining their business transactions. In doing so, the government is making strides towards its ambitious target of laying out an additional 100,000km of fiber, with 25,000km accomplished annually.
The Universal Service Fund, in collaboration with various stakeholders, has worked diligently to connect even the most remote parts of the country. This extensive effort has resulted in 461 Wi-Fi hotspots, 174 digital hubs, and an ambitious plan to establish a hub in each of the 1,450 County Assembly electoral wards.
The impact of this initiative extends beyond marketplaces. Engineer Tanui is optimistic that it will reduce unemployment by providing young Kenyans with access to online job opportunities and expanding their prospects in the digital realm. The government’s Ajira and Jitume programs are playing a pivotal role in this endeavor, equipping citizens with valuable digital skills.
Moreover, the government is partnering with technical and vocational training institutes to ensure that one million learners acquire ICT skills for digital entrepreneurship. A notable commitment of 23,000 computers to these institutions demonstrates the government’s dedication to preparing the youth for the digital marketplace.
Digital marketing and e-commerce training modules have already imparted digital skills to over 350,000 young Kenyans, leading to the creation of more than 110,000 digital jobs. The potential for growth in e-commerce is immense, and the government, in partnership with mobile network operators, has embarked on local assembly of low-cost digital telephone gadgets, making them accessible to a broader segment of the population.
Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) play a pivotal role in Kenya’s economy, contributing significantly to GDP, private sector enterprises, and employment. By embracing digitization, these enterprises stand to enhance their competitiveness, improve performance, and foster growth.
The Deputy Governor of Nakuru County, Mr. David Kones, noted the profound impact of internet penetration and the extensive use of mobile phones in unlocking new markets and opportunities for traders, farmers, and entrepreneurs. He urged local businesses to harness the immense potential of the digital space and emphasized the role of digitization in reducing operational costs, improving productivity, and fostering innovation.
Indeed, the digital transformation process, accelerated by the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, has become a competitive advantage for organizations during business disruptions. The County Government, under the leadership of Governor Susan Kihika, is committed to putting in place an e-commerce strategy that will fuel growth in trade and businesses, thereby reaping maximum benefits for the devolved unit.