Three initiatives worth revisiting to boost SMEs

App developers at an event at the iHub in Nairobi in 2015. FILE PHOTO | NMG
App developers at an event at the iHub in Nairobi in 2015. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Over the past decade there have been many initiatives formed to spur the growth of the local technology industry.

Most started with a lot of promise but ran out of stream overtime, often as a consequence of stifling regulation, poor supporting processes, gatekeeper push back, poor execution and wrong timing. Here are the three initiatives that I think the government should revisit.

Public key infrastructure

The public key infrastructure (PKI) project was meant to enhance intra-Africa trade, starting with our immediate neighbours. It could be argued that variants of blockchain-based platforms, such as ethereum, may have rendered PKI obsolete.

However, my take is that smart PKI deployments could be used to soften the regulatory stance on the risk profile of blockchain. Think of it as an additional layer of comfort in low trust environments.  

Enterprise Kenya

This was one of the more notable concepts from government led innovation, a public private partnership was set to commoditise the startup experience. It was meant to level the playing field when it comes to resource access.

The plan was simple; to provide the scaffolding many enterprises needed  in early growth stages and create 180,000 direct jobs while birth 55 global Kenyan companies. It was supposed to catalyse $500 million in technology-based venture funding and grow our ITeS exports to $1 billion.

The proposed organisational setup that would consist of a management board, investment board, and innovation council with an initial capitalidation of a Sh2 billion faced headwinds before it could even get started. The need still exists and the mission can be accomplished. 

Open data

It is impossible to conjure up all the possible service permutations that could be delivered to citizens with Open Data. In championing this project, former ICT permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo pushed hard to break some government silos during his time.

This spawned numerous solutions that allowed us to tinker and test the possibilities of what could be done, even if most of what came out of that season was labelled “m-vitus”.

Without an in-house champion, data soon grew stale or what was released was not sufficiently interesting.

Entrepreneurs and their teams are now more seasoned and it would be worthwhile for government to refresh these ideas.