Digital Literacy Training as an Enabler to Meaningful Access in Kenya

According to ITU’s definition, Meaningful connectivity is a level of connectivity that allows users to have a safe, satisfying, enriching, and productive online experience at an affordable cost. Meaningful connectivity depends on several factors known as connectivity enablers: investment in digital infrastructure, availability of digital devices, affordability of digital devices and internet data plans, digital literacy skills, and security online. Most countries in Africa are affected by all these factors either at a country-wide scale or in marginalized regions which constitute rural and/or economically disadvantaged areas that could fall under urban and peri-urban areas.

The lack of digital literacy skills affects both the adoption and usage levels of ICT services in any society which widens the usage gap. The usage gap refers to the part of the population that is covered by broadband services but not connected either because of a lack of affordability, local content, digital skills, or a variety of complex cultural barriers. The gaps are most prevalent in rural and economically disadvantaged urban and peri-urban areas because literacy levels have a direct linkage to digital literacy skills.

Kenya is notably at the forefront of addressing the digital exclusion of its marginalized population through various multi-stakeholder concerted efforts including the government, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), civil society, and community-based organizations. While the government and ISPs are investing in digital infrastructure in the first and middle mile, and civil societies holding the fort on advocacy, community networks have emerged as notable players in last mile connectivity, combining infrastructure deployment, affordable internet access, capacity building, digital skills and availability of digital devices through resource centers.

The Kenya Digital Master Plan 2022 -2032

The government is quickly catching up with the recognition that focusing solely on the coverage gap will not achieve comprehensive digital inclusion, needed to achieve meaningful access. Kenya Digital Master Plan 2022 – 2032 is a sequential progression of the Master Plan 2014-2017 and is anchored on the National ICT Policy (2019) and the Digital Economy Blueprint (2019).

The digital Master Plan 2022 – 2032 identifies four key pillars – digital infrastructure, digital services and data management, digital skills, and driving digital innovation for entrepreneurship. These pillars are collectively aimed at harnessing access to government services, businesses, and investors through the availability of a highly skilled critical mass of ICT workforce supporting the digital economy, a robust digital innovation ecosystem, funding of the proposed projects, and a government that is running on a fully digital platform.

The digital skills component of the master plan includes digital skills training for 20 million Citizens, the Public sector workforce, ICT Professionals, and youth engagement towards employment and business opportunities. The ICT Authority of Kenya (ICTA) in collaboration with the British Council and other partners with support from the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) identified and developed five (5) ICT
curricula namely; Foundation, Basic, Intermediate, Advanced Digital Skills and Public Sector workforce Digital Skills. The curricula are focused on addressing digital skills gaps, employment, and business opportunities and are intended to prepare the labor force to participate effectively in the Digital Economy.

The Authority convened a physical stakeholder workshop on 30th August 2023 in Nairobi, to review the curricula and implementation framework, and consolidate feedback. Represented at the workshop were members of the public sector, private sector, civil society, Non-government organizations (NGOs), academia, community networks, technical community and development partners. Speaking at the workshop, Stanley Kamangunya, CEO, of ICT Authority noted “We cannot work on a digital economy but the labor force has no skills for the industry. We are working on two things: first, how we develop the curriculum for various people we want to train and the second is to agree on how we will implement the program between the educational institutions, government institutions, and other institutions using the available resources.”

The Digital Skills Curriculum

The curriculum encompasses inclusivity guidelines which include but are not limited to:

  1. Accessibility, flexibility, and adaptability
  2. Reflecting principles of equality and inclusion
  3. Integrating positive portrayal of learners
  4. Adopting multimedia
  5. Teaching and Learning materials available in accessible formats
  6. Fair and accessible assessment formats
  7. Flexible assessment systems and mechanisms that accommodate different needs

The different levels of the curriculum are targeted at different digital proficiency levels from non-existent to advanced.

  1. Foundational digital skills are targeted at people with no skills in operating digital devices including smartphones and PCs. The course has 5 modules focused on operating digital devices, accessing government services, making social connections, and doing business. It is free and takes 2 days to complete.
  2. Basic digital skills are targeted at people who are working but need IT skills. The course costs Kshs. 2500 for all its 7 modules and takes 10 days to complete.
  3. Intermediate digital skills training is targeted at people with basic IT skills. It has 10 modules which take 40 hours each to complete. Except for the first 2 compulsory modules which are free, the rest of the modules cost Kshs. 5000.
  4. Advanced digital skills training is targeted at people who are highly skilled in IT. The course has 5 modules each taking 80 hours to complete and costing Kshs. 8000 per module.
  5. Public sector digital skills training has three different categories targeted at public sector players (policy level, tactical level, and operational level.) The cost for all three levels is yet to be established and has varying periods of completion for each of its modules ranging from 1 to 3 days.

A common factor at all levels is cyber hygiene awareness, showing the government’s commitment to helping citizens stay safe online, especially with the recent cyber attack on the government’s citizen portal. In 2022, KICTANet conducted a comprehensive cyber Hygiene awareness campaign targeting 3 million people most of them either from marginalized populations, women, the youth, living in informal settlements, or rural farmers.

Concerns from stakeholders included how the academic institutions will make money as implementers, concerns that most of the modules in the curricula were similar to those offered in the academic institutions which will stir competition, the lack of affordability of the courses to rural citizens, the question of funding to facilitate implementation, and the need for a module on ethics to mitigate the rise in number of youths becoming black hat hackers.

My Take

While academia could be better positioned to equip urban citizens, community-centered connectivity providers (community networks) are best positioned to implement this curriculum, especially in rural areas where a lack of devices is a huge barrier and physical training is required. They are centered on the socio-economic development of the communities they operate in, understand the varying social-cultural dynamics of these communities, can measure the e-readiness of the different subsets of community members and advice on suitable skill levels, and due to their community focus, they can offer more transformative and not transactional services. A complementary implementation approach of matching implementers to trainees is required to achieve successful pilot training of 5 million citizens.

This is a series of our publications on Community Networks.


Ms Catherine Kyalo is the KICTANet Africa Regional Coordinator for Community Networks under the APC-LOCNET initiative. She is passionate about community welfare and enjoys yoga to rejuvenate. LinkedIn | Twitter


Catherine Kyalo information

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