Roll out technology in rural areas to spur growth of digital economy


A young man uses a laptop in the village. FILE PHOTO | FREDRICK ONYANGO | NMG

Every professional has an idea of how technology, even basic computer skills, can transform literally all sectors of the economy by increasing output and minimising overall cost.

While the discussions on technological innovations in every aspect are highly commendable, developing countries like Kenya must develop policies that cut across the entire population.

We need policies that expose the disadvantaged rural population to digital knowledge and skill acquisition as well as an environment to apply the skills for sustainable development.

Read: How tech is making farming, agribusiness 'cool' for youth

The rural population and the older generation experience challenges adapting even to the basic technological changes because of a lack of technical skills.

This may be due to inadequate infrastructure to gain the necessary skills or simply adaptability challenges, especially with the older generation.

This inequality will result in a dependent environment with the rural population and older generation grossly disadvantaged in the digital economy envisioned by the government.

We can appreciate how dependency on economies with advanced technology can stunt overall growth. Kenya is at that stage.

Achieving sustainable growth based on technology requires deliberate efforts by the government to effectively balance the long-term gains expected out of this advancement and the short-term needs, especially of the rural population.

Concentrating resources in Nairobi with the hope of expanding innovation space and creating jobs in the city was a policy error that the government must correct in laying a foundation for a digitally inspired economy.

We may have a policy and governance structure that includes a ministry tasked with the digital economy. But rolling out technology incubation centres, not just in major towns, but across the country is key.

Also read: Tech firm extends medical insurance cover to rural areas

The centres will be crucial in offering opportunities for knowledge acquisition, innovation and transforming ideas into practical solutions that would support the economy of all areas.

Expanding rural economies through digital solutions will also open the areas to more investments, including attracting the Kenyan diaspora in engaging their kin in the village on modern methods learned in their host countries.

With investments in cities limited to a few, opening up rural economies will foster diversification and growth that ensure no one is left behind.