Ray Besiga

Connected East Africa Summit 2015

NTF III Project Representatives and Companies at ConnectedEA 2015

What is Connected East Africa?

The summit is a brainchild of the Kenya ICT Authority in consultation with ICT industry players and key government decision makers. It initially started as Connected Kenya but has since grown to offer a platform in which top ICT executives in the public and private sectors in the region can network and collaborate on the use of ICT as a catalyst for service delivery to citizens. With the theme “The strength is in our networks” the objectives of the summit were to:

  • address gaps in ICT integration and shared infrastructure among shared infrastructure among East African member states.
  • speed-up harmonization of ICT regulation across the region.
  • build support on ongoing ICT integrated infrastructure projects across the East African region.
  • provide a platform for meaningful networking that will result in fruitful relationships that contribute to economic development in the region.

Government representatives from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan were present.You can see more about the summit here.

Why was I there?

The Netherlands Trust Fund Phase III (NTF III). The NTF III or Export Sector Competitiveness Programme is based on a partnership agreement between the Dutch Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries (CBI), affiliated to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, and the International Trade Centre (ITC).

With a sought outcome of enhancing export competitiveness of selected sectors in target developing countries, in this case Uganda and Kenya, the core objectives of the project are:

  • employment generation.
  • women and youth economic empowerment.
  • regional integration.
  • poverty reduction.

And it did not take long to realize why the conference was the right place to be in regard to the four cornerstone objectives. The project has a huge focus on women and youth and it in manifested in the companies selected to represent Uganda at the conference. There were 3 women representatives and yours truly.

Natalie Kimbugwe, CEO at BDE Consults, a company with a mission is to provide organisations, companies and individuals in East Africa with ICT Research, ICT Events, BPO Services & Training. They have a Transport and Insurance Expo coming up in July 2015 with a theme “Technology driving safe mobility”.

Sherry Tumusiime, CEO at Zimba Women, a project that believes in development driven by the private sector and is passionate about women-led SMEs using e-commerce as a vehicle. Now is a perfect time to get more women in STEM. Get involved and do your part. #equalitycantwait

Joanita Nnvanungi, Content Exec at Node Six, an Internet Solutions provider. I highly recommend them for social media management.

Me, CEO at Sparkplug, a software development firm that uses open source technology to develop web and mobile applications, integrate with client teams, design interfaces and experiences, and consult on projects large & small.

I like to think we represented the project, its ideals and hopes for the outcome.

General Observations

  1. Governments are displaying commitment to improving regional connectivity through national backbones by promoting access and use of terrestrial cross border fibre optic networks, and exploring strategies for closing infrastructure bottlenecks. By the looks of it, it’s not all cosmetic. SEACOM recently launched a direct presence in Uganda.

  2. The regional industry is keen on talent pool and workforce development through ICT Innovation. There was a showcase of different technology-enabled innovations shaking up different sectors. The Medical Concierge Group with its new take on Telemedicine. Fundi Bots, a robotics non-profit with aims to inspire and create a new generation of problem solvers, innovators and thinkers. Gearbox, Kenya’s first open makerspace for design and rapid prototyping of hardware among others.

  3. Progressive Service Delivery is a Public Private Partnership and can no longer be left to government alone. Big multinationals are partnering with government to foster development of SMEs. One really impressive outcome is the Biz4Afrika by conference title sponsor Microsoft Kenya. It is an online hub for Kenyan small and medium enterprises to grow their networks, and drive social development and youth employability. It does this by aggregating online solutions, freemium offers and relevant services with valuable information in one place. I really liked this one. Other initiatives like Konza Techno City were pretty cool too.

  4. Leadership is almost everything. Looking back, I realize now that Kenya is not too far ahead of Rwanda and Uganda. Citizens in all three countries are zealous about ICT and it’s role in development. However, that mileage is limited if the steering committee does not have a pulse on the needs of the people, the standards of technology required to fulfill them. I was quite impressed by majority of the ICT sector leaders in the different arms of government, and their willingness to listen to and empathize with their private sector colleagues. And of course the clever banter put on public display by ministers Fred Matiang’i and Jean Philbert Nsengimana of Kenya and Rwanda respectively.

Wrapping Up

All in all, dialogue around regional integration, export competitiveness and workforce development is essential and this should only be the start of something good. I hope more conferences of this kind can be organized to engage the different stakeholders in the industry. Until next time.

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