The ubiquity of data to power and impact all aspects of modern human life and businesses is the easiest explanation to how digital technology has evolved.
Progressively, Internet connectivity continues to break new ground – from basic requirements such as sending correspondence or accessing social media platforms to complex technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, block-chain and machine learning.
This shift, also known as The Internet of Things (IoT) has rightfully become the next big battleground for tech and telecoms companies and the ultimate frontier for commercial growth.
Closer home, Kenya’s mobile industry bottom line has seen massive growth. The e-commerce explosion, for instance, now backed by mobile money, has spawned an online economy that has become part of our everyday imperative. One only requires connection to earn a livelihood.
This digital transformation is a key driver of the Kenya National Development Blueprint; the Vision 2030’s aspiration to build a knowledge-based economy.
The importance of the Internet to deliver socio-economic benefits is clear. At low cost, and at scale, the Internet has the power to lift the most marginalised people. It is therefore critical and urgent that Internet access is progressively enhanced to reach the majority of Kenyans fast and reliably.
To achieve this, every investment and innovation that goes towards making the Internet more accessible and affordable should be actively encouraged and supported. This includes the ongoing roll-out of 4G by mobile operators across the country. However, it is imperative that the respective ministry and regulatory bodies address the skewed nature of the sector if telcos are to continue with further investment into the sector and the economy. Regulatory reform is urgently needed.
Alongside the drive to roll-out infrastructure, increasing availability of smart phones has been a huge boost in the digital journey. Device manufacturers are now compelled to present more affordable choices, which together with the robust infrastructure, continue to boost data consumption. In line with the one of the Agenda Four pillars, we need to encourage the assembly of these devices locally with an ultimate aim of manufacturing them.
The Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa 2017 Report projects that by 2020 there will be 500 million smart phone connections in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Kenya, the demand and uptake of smart phones is growing. All ingredients for increasing Internet access in the country seem to be falling into place. The next logical step in closing this loop is in making data more available, irrespective of geography. It is unfortunate that some parts of the country are still not adequately covered by 3G and 4G networks to facilitate fast and reliable Internet access. This calls for innovative ways to deliver this service.
The writer is the Chair of the Board of Directors at Telkom.