The first ever Kenya ICT Innovation forum was held earlier this week (March 2 – March 3, 2015), with day 2 kicking off with a buzz about the President making an appearance to officially stamp the government’s commitment in leveraging ICT for the country’s development and to officially launch the event.
Developers and innovators even donned suits as they readied themselves to present their solutions to President Kenyatta, and why I mention this is because you could not help but notice the luck of comfort experienced, with some loosening their ties as others decided to get rid of them all together.
One notable occasion that even took to Twitter was with Sam Gichuru, the founder and CEO of Nailab who literally had to change back into his jeans to attend the closing session of the Innovation forum under the focus theme ‘Closing the Gap’, where he was one of the panelists.
We all know developers do not care much for dressing up, that’s why when you visit places like iHub and the Nailab or the Nairobi garage (former 88mph) you will find most people in jeans and t-shirts or even in shorts. You will not find people in suits trying to work on their solutions, not even in meetings; a situation that is common across nations, with Silicon Valley being the epitome of this casual environment.
So the expected presence of President Kenyatta was very loud, and as some of us stayed seated ‘patiently’ waiting for him to arrive, he finally did, going through each and every station at the innovation village and being taken through how each innovation is helping to solve problems of people in the society.
Later addressing those attending the Innovation forum, the President directed the ICT Authority and the Ministry of ICT as a whole to ensure that no idea that could grow the country into one of the world’s innovation destinations should be let to slide away to international investors while it could be scaled from the country instead.
“The Silicon Savannah is a reality confirmed by transformative innovations conceived in the minds of Kenyans and implemented by Kenyan firms,” the president said. “When it comes to innovation, we count among the leaders.”
And as he went on about how the government is contributing to support the youth to start their own enterprises and apply their talent to profitable innovations through initiatives such as the Uwezo Fund and Youth Fund, the president did not forget to mention the private sector that has also been driving ICT growth in the country.
“We expect that the private sector will maintain its leading role by stepping up efforts to develop talent and support entrepreneurship,” he said. “I look forward to greater partnership between government, the private sector and educational institutions that will strengthen Kenya’s leading position in ICT.”
The president then urged stakeholders to see through the addition of more ICT incubation hubs into the already existing networks in order to enable more people participate in innovative activities throughout the country.
“The ICT Ministry must lead efforts by various stakeholders to ensure that Enterprise Kenya (the planned center where innovators can go for assistance) takes off and begins to nurture innovation in the sector.”
With the forum showing the need for government to expand ICT exports for a better Kenya through directing innovations to the regional and global market, and as sectors continue to look to ICT to transform the way things are done, the president believes opportunities will be presented to all irrespective of location, background, gender or disability. But this, only if promises are fulfilled.
“Let the commitments made at this innovation forum not become another government talk show where nothing is done,” he added.
The innovation forum also saw the establishment of a presidential task force that will now become the face of innovation in the country and is set to also liaise with the Enterprise Kenya initiative, in order to scale solutions to the global market.