We want technology to drive our economy — Ruto

Celebrations to mark Kenya’s 59 years as a republic afforded President William Ruto yet another chance to advance ongoing debate in favor of the digital transformation of the country’s economy.

The move was in step with the plan of the organizers of this year’s fete who focused on the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) theme: Connect, Innovate and Inspire.

With corporate chiefs from global tech companies Meta (Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram parent firm), Google, Microsoft, Multichoice, and Mastercard in attendance, Dr Ruto took the chance to elaborate on how technology promises to turn around the fortunes of millions of Kenyans.

“These great people have joined us because Kenya is a country of great opportunity, especially in the tech space. We want technology to drive our economy,” he said.

The President reiterated his plan to build 100,000 kilometers of fiber optic cable to enhance internet access for individuals, homes, and businesses across Kenya.

To cut off profit-sapping middlemen, brokers, and State bureaucracy in agriculture, Dr Ruto said his administration will ride on a mobile phone-enabled e-voucher system to distribute roughly six million bags of fertilizer. This strategy is part of larger plan to boost farm production and check rising cost of living.

“We intend to deliver our subsidy program on fertilizer [through] e-vouchers that will be available to 1.3 million farmers,” explained the President.

With his signature programme, the Hustler Fund, now on the 13th day since its launch, Dr Ruto lauded the success recorded so far saying a total of Kes7.5 billion has been wired to millions of borrowers.

Read also: The World Bank lines up Sh92 billion new loan for Kenya to plug budgetary needs

“The platform which supports all the transactions on the Hustler Fund was developed locally, and has opened up access to affordable credit, liberated millions of hustlers from the vicious grip of shylocks and other predatory lenders, and enabled Kenyans of all walks of life to mobilise savings,” he said.

An estimated 15.4 million Kenyans have now registered for the fund and a total of Kes1.1 billion loans have been repaid before the expiry of the initial 14-day repayment period.

The financial access and inclusion initiative has also seen the country realise nearly Kes400 million in personal savings.

With evolution of digital economy, the President said his administration is exploring ways of monetising online activity, opening fresh income streams for thousands of Kenyan content creators on various  platforms.

“I have spoken directly to Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram, to monetise content for our digital entrepreneurs that will exponentially multiply incomes and create employment opportunities for others. I am impressed and encouraged by the power of monetisation and remote jobs. This is the way to the future,” Dr Ruto noted.

“If I was not a State officer, I wonder what the content on my small Facebook page, with 2.3 million followers, would earn me daily,” he said.

Lately, the President has held that repurposing Kenya’s labour force to sync with the demands of the information age will accelerate the economy and give rise to jobs for the youth.

At the Innovation Week held in early December, Dr Ruto highlighted the need to scale digital competency in the workforce to enhance competitiveness as Kenyans vie with other global citizens for a share of the lucrative US$680 billion global IT outsourcing market.

“Organizations have become more dependent on the [ success of applications] that IT could provide… Kenya must be technology ready in this huge $680 billion enterprise,” he said, adding that this awareness inspired him to profile this year’s Independence Day celebrations to reflect the trend toward digitization.

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