Remarks by His Excellency, William Samoei Ruto, The Deputy President of the Republic Kenya
At the Official opening of the Global ICT Capacity Building Symposium
06 September 2016, Nairobi, Kenya
Secretary General of the ITU, Mr. Houlin Zhao,
It is an honour to join you for this important forum. I want to extend a hearty welcome to all of you particularly those of you visiting our country for the first time. May this be the first of many happy trips.
From the onset I just want to say that It would have been good if this forum was talking about deploying ICT capacity instead of building it- I think the day we flip the conversation is the day we change the world and Africa in particular.
Hosting of this forum is an indication that Kenya is firmly determined to bridge the gap between possibility and achievement in ICT; that we understand to win the future we must put ICT in the driver's seat. Thankfully, our tech scene is vibrant, ambitious and visionary.
There are young people across the country doing phenomenal work and rolling out important apps, websites and solutions that are transforming our society into an easier one to live, work and prosper.
We are not where we need to be yet, but we have a strong foundation to build on and we will make the necessary investments to make it happen.
Kenya has recorded impressive growth in ICT over the years, demonstrating the enormous transformative potential that it holds captive. ICT is expected to contribute at least 8% to our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in this financial year.
According to the 2016 Kenya Economic Survey, the value of ICT output expanded from Kenya Shillings 259 million in 2014 to KSh 280 million in 2015.
In finance, health, education, agriculture and Governance, ICT has become the platform for top rate service delivery, on-demand dissemination of information, and effective customer service.
Mobile technology has revolutionized financial inclusion. Today, two out of three adult Kenyans are part of the formal financial ecosystem and this phenomenon has up-ended the traditional business models of financial institutions and retail outlets.
ITU data shows that despite the declining costs of ICT services, more than 50% of the world's population is still offline.
Of the 3.5 billion who are using Internet, 2.5 billion are from developed countries.
This translates to a penetration of 81% in developed countries and a mere 40% in developing countries and 15% penetration in the least developed countries. This rather grim figures must compel us to action and more so, urgently.
We are obligated to mitigate the glaring ICT divide both within countries and between countries. An average global mobile broadband penetration of 49.4% may sound pretty good, but not when one developed country boasts a 90.3% average while developing countries only 40.9% penetration, and worse, the least developed countries 19.4%.
We need to put in place structures to accelerate connectivity even if not for the sake of profitability. We need partnerships that enable the rural poor to get their first online experience.
Connectivity is as important to a citizen of Bhutan as it is for one in Zambia and Finland. The farmer in rural Kenya has as much to benefit from ICT like his or her counterpart in the Canadian prairies.
Universal connectivity offers a powerful platform to deliver essential services, which in turn have the capacity to improve if not transform the human condition and experience.
Promptness is critical. We must quickly work towards affordable prices, higher speeds, high capacity of Internet, if we are to attain our ICT dream. 137 years after Thomas Edison developed the light bulb, Africa is still in the dark.
Today, over 645 million Africans do not have access to electricity. In Kenya we have made new connections to the national grid a priority and we have already brought on board over two million new users. I think at this point in history there is no big solution coming our way-we have to act. We have to make things happen.
Kenya as a member state of the ITU is ready to work to realize the goals we have for connecting the people. Let us all be leaders; let us all be advocates; let us all take action-that is the only way.
Innovation is fuel of today's development. It is the foundation for the transformative and visionary societies of today and tomorrow.
We are living in the most dynamic time in history. Today's innovation makes last week's innovation obsolete. We need to feed this monster; we need to let it devour the challenges of our time and usher us into a new inter-connected age of prosperity.
The truth is; innovation is born from experience; the more connected we are the higher the likelihood of more innovation and transformation.
When the computer was a big thing that was housed in a lab innovation was limited and rare. Today, when we carry computers in our pockets it is almost everywhere.
If we get computers into the remaining pockets we shall make it ubiquitous. Getting computers into the remaining pockets-is what we are calling capacity building. It's why we are here.
An economy based on ICT and the Internet, or "the digital economy", as the OECD Declaration states "... is a powerful catalyst for innovation, growth and social prosperity... promoting a more sustainable and inclusive growth focused on well being and equality of opportunities... ". ICT is the enabling sector towards the fulfillment of the Sustainable Development Goals.
With the emergence of entrepreneurship opportunities as a result of the digital evolution, let us be careful to ensure an inclusion of youth, children and people with disabilities, women and other vulnerable groups of society.
ICT not only drives the Kenyan society today, but also is also intricately embedded in our national development plan, Vision 2030.
As a country, we have embraced ICTs because of our firm belief in their transformative power. Kenya's ICT sector is vibrant, ambitious and innovative, and is underpinned by sound and progressive National ICT Policy.
As a result, ICT has in recent times transformed our country into one of the smartest societies in the region, and made life easier, work more productive and enterprise more efficient and profitable for our people. We are not at the peak as yet, but we are slowly but surely meeting our policy objectives in this strategic sector of our economy.
Virtually all sectors of the economy including finance, health, education, agriculture and the government are quickly embracing technology to enable dissemination of information, enhancement of service delivery and effective reach to customers.
It is also a key driver of digital financial inclusion in Kenya with two out of three adult Kenyans being part of the formal financial ecosystem.
The mobile payment platform has overtaken all other payment systems in the country, with over 40 million customers and moving over 270 billion US Dollars monthly.
The growth of mobile money in the country has radically changed in the business models of most institutions in the country.
Kenya has taken a bold and deliberate step to roll out digital learning programme in all public primary schools starting from next year. We believe that this programme will prepare the ground for the next generation of ICT innovators in Kenya.
Let no one be left behind. Let us not repeat the mistakes of the industrial revolution-I think we know better.
Today there are 3.5 billion people connected to the Internet, imagine how much more we can achieve together, what a world we can have when we connect the remaining 3.5 billion.
If the ICT sector is the catalyst for competitive and dynamic economies, then we must pay attention to several fundamental areas, including infrastructure, cyber security and legislative and policy frameworks, with emphasis on access and e-inclusion.
The first beneficiaries of this capacity building platform are you and I.
We must therefore take the lead in taking full advantage of the wealth of knowledge, depth of ideas and breadth of debate that is available to us here and now.
Then we must carry the unique effect of this experience to our countries, governments, companies, schools, universities, laboratories, farms, industries and homes.
It is now my humble pleasure to declare the 2016 Global ICT Capacity Building Symposium Officially Opened.