Digital Transformation Center Kenya
At a glance
Kenya, the home country of M-Pesa, is known for its digital affinity. This is reflected in both society and the economy: a constantly growing network of entrepreneurs, start-ups and innovation centres uses (digital) technologies to solve current problems. In Africa, Kenya is considered a frontrunner in the use of smartphones and internet access, so that the country’s digital economy is also growing rapidly and with it the hope of creating new, sustainable jobs.
On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the European Union (EU), the Digital Transformation Center (DTC) supports Kenya’s transformation towards a sustainable and human-centred digital economy and society.
On the one hand, the Digital Transformation Center focuses on strengthening the country’s digital economy. It implements measures to strengthen the local ecosystem for digital innovation. In addition, it offers (further) training opportunities in the area of digital skills and supports small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in their digital transformation. Another focus of the Digital Transformation Center is to promote data sharing for value creation and the creation of more and better jobs in the platform economy, the so-called gig economy.
On the other hand, the Digital Transformation Center works to strengthen the digital society in Kenya. For example, it identifies technologies, such as in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), through which socio-economic benefits can be achieved. It also builds capacity in the area of data protection to increase citizen and consumer confidence in digital products and services. It also works to make the digitisation of public services user-centred.
In all its activities, the Digital Transformation Center also tries to overcome digital divides so that young and old, women and men, rural and urban populations, people with and without disabilities, etc. can benefit equally from the internet. It is also committed to linking digital transformation with green transformation to decarbonise the Kenyan economy. In a nutshell: Innovation, technical know-how, participation, political processes, entrepreneurship and research come together in the Digital Transformation Center and are bundled in order to:
- put people at the centre of the digital transformation
- build a fair, competitive and green digital economy
- and enable an inclusive digital society that leaves no one behind.
The work of the Digital Transformation Center can be divided into two components that work on different focus topics:
1. Component: Digital Economy
Entrepreneurship, Innovation & Digital Skills
The Kenyan start-up sector is one of the most prominent on the continent. Nairobi has made a name for itself as “Silicon Savannah” and attracts tech entrepreneurs, innovators and investors from all over the world. The country’s technology and innovation hubs are a key backbone, helping start-ups to grow and providing access to critical support services. To increase the reach of these ecosystem support structures, the Digital Transformation Center works hand in hand with them and strengthens their capacities to network and provide services to their respective start-up and SME communities.
Another important factor for the digital and green transformation of the Kenyan economy is the sustainable digitisation of SMEs. Many of them face the challenge to invest in (clean) technologies and to secure appropriate financing. For this reason, the Digital Transformation Center supports the establishment of a green Digital Innovation Hub (DIH) as a one-stop shop for companies that want to become more competitive in a climate-friendly way with the help of digital tools.
In addition to strengthening the digital innovation ecosystem and supporting SMEs in digitisation, the Digital Hub also works to nurture the country’s digital talent: Training youth and especially young women in digital skills not only improves the employability of the Kenyan workforce, but also meets the need for IT-savvy professionals in the tech sector.
The motto is: to tap into data, evaluate it and use it to develop profitable solutions for society and the economy. However, data as such is not easy to obtain. It is therefore not surprising that access to data is becoming increasingly important. Data held by one company could also help other companies optimise their products or policy makers improve public services. That is why the Digital Transformation Center supports data exchange between companies (B2B) and between companies and public authorities (B2G). In addition, it works to develop frameworks for handling data and to introduce and disseminate data-based solutions. Furthermore, the Digital Transformation Center works to increase the understanding and awareness of the importance of data, especially open data, in society.
In the area of the gig economy, the Digital Transformation Center works closely with the Fairwork Foundation at Oxford University to evaluate digital labour platforms, such as Uber or Jumia in Kenya, against fair labour principles. The Fairwork Foundation highlights the best and worst practices of platforms and advises them on how to improve their working conditions. In addition, the Digital Transformation Center offers tailored solutions to improve the knowledge and skills of gig workers. It also engages policymakers to raise awareness of the potential and risks of the gig economy and to enable them to design evidence-based and agile regulation.
Support for Kenya’s digital strategy
In April 2022, the Ministry of Information, Communications and Digital Economy (MICDE) released the Kenya Digital Master Plan (DMP) 2022-2032, the country’s new blueprint for implementing digital transformation. The Digital Transformation Center supports the MICDE and its subordinate agencies in implementing the DMP, for example by developing action plans or conducting studies and idea competitions.
2. Component: Digital Society
The right to privacy has taken on a whole new meaning in the digital age. With the ratification of the Data Protection Act (DPA) in 2019 and the establishment of the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (ODPC) in 2020, Kenya has taken important steps to ensure the privacy of its citizens online. The Digital Transformation Center supports ODPC in implementing the new law. It also supports data processors and data controllers in fulfilling their obligations under the Data Protection Act. It also works with civil society organisations to raise citizens’ awareness of their right to privacy, focusing in particular on at-risk groups such as women, young people, journalists and activists.
In the field of artificial intelligence (AI), the Digital Transformation Center focuses on building a local AI ecosystem, especially by strengthening links between research and industry. In addition, the Digital Transformation Center is building capacity in natural language processing and machine learning, and developing AI-driven use cases, such as an AI-driven chatbot for business registration. At the policy level, the Digital Transformation Center works with policymakers to develop practical guidelines. Policy makers with whom it formulates practical guidelines for good ethical practices for the development and application of AI solutions.
In the area of digital government, the Digital Transformation Center works to improve public services by introducing digital government services and developing technical frameworks. For example, the Digital Transformation Center supports the government in assessing the strategic, technical and regulatory requirements for digital services. It also helps with the technical design of online government services using the ICT building block concept of the GovStack initiative. Furthermore, it strengthens the technical and methodological skills of civil servants to support the digitisation of government services in a user-centred way.
Gender-based violence and misinformation on the internet
In today’s digital world, where an overwhelming amount of information is readily available, the spread of misinformation and gender-based violence online poses a threat to society and individuals. Together with its civil society partners, the Digital Transformation Center is building a community of practice in Kenya, building capacity and skills to combat misinformation and gender-based violence online.