Last week saw the conclusion of the internationally attended and highly innovative Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization Forum hosted by the Communications Authority of Kenya in partnership with the Ministry of Information. In tandem with tradition the Secretary General elect took his oath in front of all the delegates during the opening ceremony; followed by intense debates about the role of regulators in telecommunications, defining broadband, utilizing connectivity – just to name a few.
This is all well and good but what does it mean for the ordinary mwananchi in Kenya? Exactly how will the solutions affect their day to day lives? Firstly, it must be noted that attendees of the Forum not only included representatives from Commonwealth civil society, but founders and representatives of innovative companies across Africa. Secondly, we must mention that here in Kenya a report by the Communications Authority of Kenya shows that there are 16.4 million internet subscribers in the country as of at the end of 2014 – a 24.8% increase compared the same period in the previous year. Also in Kenya according to a report by the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Africa, employment in the informal sector currently stands at 77.95% of the total.
How far do you think the 75.2% of the population who are likely employed in the informal sector would be if they became empowered by telecommunications? Essentially this could potentially mean that the marketplace would no longer be the stall a mama mbonga owns down the road from her house, but the whole of Africa – and this is only the tip of the ice berg. By having access to the internet this mama mboga could sell her products online via an “instagram shop,” connect with a transporter, and ship her products to another part of the world. This would in turn grow her business without forcing her to invest that much capital. And this is only one scenario, the possibilities are endless.
Above and beyond this as mentioned earlier was the participation by the innovative companies such as DEMO Africa and Ushahidi, just to name a few. These companies bridge the gap between the mama mboga’s of this world and the Communications Authorities of this world. They collect data and set the trend of what is needed on the ground, allowing the regulators to provide the infrastructure and regulation for innovation.
Finding connectivity solutions that can easily be applied across the world should be a paramount goal to all developing countries, and we are glad that Kenya has shown some initiative by hosting such a forum. We at Soko Directory applaud and welcome such initiatives.