Kenya: Ground Breaking ICT Innovations

What have World Bank managing director Caroline Anstey, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, and Research In Motion (makers of the Blackberry) technical partnership manager Michael Weitzel in common? The trio believe that Kenya is the country to watch in the ICT sector.


The top executives visited the country recently to meet youth groups which are behind several innovative software applications.


The youth groups, made up of mainly university students or recent graduates who have ventured into small start-ups, are turning out to be Kenya’s latest magnet that is attracting global firms such as Nokia, Samsung, RIM as well as venture capitalists.


Operating from various innovation centres across Nairobi such as iHub, iLab Africa ,mLab, and NaiLab, some of  the more than 3,000 software developers have come up with both mobile and personal computer based software applications that are changing lives across the continent.


The applications are designed to help users solve their day to day problems, ranging from linking farmers with buyers, to monitoring if a patient is taking a prescribed drug, to locating a restaurant.


 The World Bank is keen on software applications that can enable citizens to monitor how grants given to the government, or allocated to counties when the devolved government becomes operational, or those given to organisations to promote good governance and accountability, are used.


Nokia, on the other hand, has announced intentions to establish a regional research and development centre in Nairobi in an effort to capture the growing number of Kenya’s software developers and cultivate applications for its African market.


As global organisations troop into the country in search of locally made software applications, which they hope to replicate in other parts of the world, Kenyan technology entrepreneurs are being offered an opportunity to start cashing in on their grants.



“Through information development, we are working with innovation centres such as iLabAfrica who we offer grants to enable them scale up some of their applications,” said Ms Anstey during her visit to Strathmore University.


 The World Bank, through the Kenya ICT Board, said it had set aside Sh7.5 billion in grants to motivate local software developers.

Already, a number of local starts-ups — such as Octopus ICT Solutions Ltd which has developed an HIV/Aids e-learning course — have benefited from the fund. The fund, dubbed Tandaa Digital Grant, is run by the Kenya ICT Board.


Other beneficiaries are Infotrack Strategic Solutions Ltd which has developed a portal that will link teachers with their employer, the Teachers’ Service Commission,  while iBid Labs has come up with the Kenya Online Museum project which seeks to document the country’s history.


iBid Lab, through use of multi-media, said it would capture three million years of Kenya’s history which will be accessed through mobile phones.


Information ministry PS Bitange Ndemo said that by using software applications created locally to collect and disseminate data, the country’s leaders were heading towards an era of making decisions from an informed point.


“The problems we face in this country are mainly because some of the policies or decisions are not made from an informed position,” said Dr Ndemo.


“With the technology and available government data, one can easily interrogate some of the decisions.”


Kenya ICT

ICT drives development