Kenya banks on innovation to boost health, agriculture

A farmer inspecting his crops
A farmer inspecting his crops. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Kenya is exploring the use of technology in health and agriculture to build infrastructure and create sustainability in the two sectors.

The government has already begun the adoption of technology in the Universal Health Coverage as well as in the agriculture data centre to be opened by the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro).

“Technology plays an important role in issues of universal health coverage (UHC), telemedicine, and distribution of drugs using drones,” said Principal Secretary ministry of ICT, Jerome Ochieng.

Mr Ochieng, who was speaking during the Dell Technologies Regional ICT Conference, said uptake of the new technology will pave way for precision agriculture, which is key in food sustainability.

“Precision agriculture is where you plant right seeds at the right place because we know soil structure and rain pattern in a particular area from data,” he said.


Kalro’s new data centre once opened will apply sensors to collect data including that on rain patterns — when and how much is expected .

This will be timely given the fact that the government has put the weatherman on the spot over an inaccurate forecast that looks set to hurt food production this year and slow down economic growth.

The forecast prompted farmers in Western Kenya to plant in March but now many are staring at failed crops and losses running into millions of shillings spent on fertiliser, seeds and planting.

Agriculture accounts for a third of Kenya’s annual economic output or gross domestic product (GDP), and contributes directly and indirectly to nearly half of Kenya’s formal and informal employment.

Experts say with the use of sensors and data analysis, the sector can improve in terms of forecasting planting seasons, rain patterns, yield and even soil analysis and what plants are most suitable for a particular topography and climate.

Kenyan is now banking on innovation, and the government is seeking private-public partnerships for implementation of smart solutions.

“Such solutions are aimed at solving the pressing need of Kenyans,” said Mr Ochieng.

He further added that the partnerships can also be used as regulatory sandboxes that can test methods by which the needs of both the public and the private sector can be balanced.

As businesses get into the fourth industrial revolution, data is becoming an increasingly valuable currency for businesses and all sectors of the economy.

“These technologies share a common thread: each of them is fuelled by data. And as we continue to embrace the growing digital economy, the true value of data as currency will become increasingly clear,” said Habib Mahakian, Vice President of Dell Technologies - Emerging Africa.