Phone assembly plan alone won’t ease cost


Ministry of Information, Communication and the Digital Economy Cabinet Secretary, Eliud Owalo makes his remarks during the opening ceremony of the ICT Week 2023 held at Safari Park Hotel on May 17, 2023. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG

We laud Kenya’s plan to roll out one million locally-assembled smartphones in two months, given that the move would spur job creation efforts, enable technology transfer and boost the country's skilled talent pool.

ICT Cabinet secretary Eliud Owalo says the smartphones targeting the low-income market segment will cost Sh5,500, making them affordable to a majority of Kenyans and increasing uptake of the gadgets from the current 60 percent.

The minister adds that the initiative will also foster digital access and inclusion.

However, the government needs to address the root cause of the high cost of smartphones, which is the taxes that the Treasury has imposed on the devices.

Local production of smartphones alone will not make the gadgets affordable if the Treasury will impose taxes on the locally assembled devices.

Mr Owalo also disclosed that government plans to accelerate digital inclusion through an initial 5,000km of the planned 100,000km of fibre optic cable by June, which is partially funded by the World Bank.

This plan will also succeed if the Internet infrastructure result in cheaper access to high-speed Internet.

So far, the government has created free Wi-Fi hot spots in various locations for public use, but the coverage is still low.

On the flip side, the local assembling of smartphones will further fuel electronic waste pollution, which Kenya is grappling with.

The government and the private sector players should come up with initiatives to ensure the recycling and reuse of electronic waste based on the best circular economy practices.