ICTs at Crawling Stage in Counties, Study Reveals

By Kelvin Kariuki.

A recent study conducted by the Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet) in collaboration with the ICT Authority (ICTA) that focused on the adoption and maturity levels of ICTs within counties as envisioned in the ICT Roadmaps has revealed that most counties are still grappling with adopting and/or using ICTs to improve their governance and service delivery.

While Kenya has positioned itself as Africa’s ICTs Innovation Silicon Valley dubbed the “Silicon Savannah”, this seems to be only true from the epicenter of most ICTs success stories Kenya’s Capital, Nairobi.

Over the years, KICTANet has been conducting an end of year ICT report dubbed “State of ICTs in Kenya”, while the title suggests otherwise, this report was mainly biased towards the development perspectives of ICTs in the urban centers.

During the launch of the report, KICTANet’s Convener, Ms. Grace Githaiga said that this time they decided to focus on the state of ICTs in the Counties and thereby partnered with ICTA to conduct the ICT Survey in the Counties in order to get a better and national perspective.

This move was warmly welcomed by ICTA’s CEO, Dr. Getao who said that they were happy to partner with independent and organized civil societies like KICTANet. She welcomed them to provide positive criticism in order to motivate them to improve on their delivery and to give them a true picture of what was happening on the ground.

The purpose of the survey was to establish and subsequently encourage faster adoption and maturity of ICTs within counties since ICTs provide important tools that facilitate efficient delivery of services, improve accountability and transparency. 

The survey focused on twenty-five ICT sub processes which were assessed under nine broad categories namely: ICT Policy & Strategic Plan, ICT Risk Assessment & Monitoring, ICT Financial & Procurement Management, ICT Personnel & Skills Management, ICT Service Planning & Architecture, ICT Security & Business Continuity, ICT Information, Operations & User Support, ICT Deployment Information System, and National ICT Projects. 

While 46 out of the 47 counties responded to the survey questionnaire, 10 counties were picked for the verification phase based on an equal representation of the county categories; rural, extra-rural and urban counties. A summary report was then done for three counties namely Uasin Gishu(urban), Kajiado(rural) and Taita-Taveta(extra-rural)  counties. 

Each category and its sub processes were evaluated, assessed and given a score that ranged between zero (0) and Five (5). A zero score implied that the expected ICT processes were non-existent or were incomplete. he highest score of five implied that the processes and procedures not only existed, but had matured to be established, predictable and optimized. 

On average, the highest scoring categories included; ICT Policy & Strategic Plan, ICT Financial & Procurement Management and ICT Deployment Information-Systems/Applications. In these categories, the Counties scored above an average value of 1.8 across the maturity level that ranged from 1 to 5. This  score indicates that most procedures in these categories were still being performed in an ad-hoc manner. It also means  that there are not standardized processes and the overall approach to management is disorganized. 

Of particular concern is the performance in the categories of ICT Risk Management, ICT Security and National Projects that recorded poor performance with an average score of below 1.0. This level of maturity indicated a complete lack of any recognizable policy, process or procedure for these categories. Indeed  the county governments had not yet recognized that there is an issue to be addressed. 

The counties were therefore urged to begin instituting an ICT Risk & Security Framework and work closely with ICT Authority to activate the National Optic Fiber Infrastructure (NOFBI) at the County Levels while utilizing the National Data Center. 

Most Counties reported that ICTA was not involving or informing them about National ICT Projects and that’s why they were unaware ofthe state of the Digital Learning Program (DLP), commonly referred to as the “Laptop Project” in their counties. This also explains why they were not utilizing the National Data Center. 

The report thus recommended a review and improvement of the working relationship between the two levels of governments in matters ICT development. It also noted that a country-wide ICT progress can only be achieved if counties are taken as the basic unit of ICT development, a matter that was emphasized by Mr. Gibran Mwadime, ICT County Director Taita-Taveta, during the launch of the report. 

In order to catalyze an improvement in the subsequent year, each of the three sampled counties was presented with a detailed county specific report that will help them to identify their current maturity level of the key ICT processes and a recommended target for the coming year for each of the categories

Mr. Joshua Muiruri, head of ICT infrastructure at ICTA, during the launch also urged the ICT County directors to update their respective County ICT Roadmaps in order to cater for the new changes and demands that had been brought in by the pandemic.

In some of her responses, the ICTA CEO Dr. Getao explained that the problem with NOFBI at the county level was that it was terminated at the National Government Headquarters at the counties which was not necessarily the County Headquarters location. She went further to mention that NOFBI was a highway rather than a last-mile connection.

Nevertheless, ICTA is to launch the National ICT Master Plan which contains plans to connect all the public institutions like schools, police stations among others through the NOFBI.

Additionally, Dr. Getao recommended that the ICT survey should in next edition include aspects on IFMIS usage which seems to be criticized in general and in particular at the county level. She also suggested more ICT survey parameters can be lifted from the County Governments Act KICTANet was also challenged by Dr. Getao to partner with the Kenya School of Government in developing an ICT capacity building program for counties in order to help the ICT County Directors and their colleagues to better understand and implement the various ICT processes at the county level.

The lead researcher, Mr. John Walubengo reported that there was a disparity from county to county on where the ICT Department was domiciled within the county organograms. Counties that had an independent ICT department reporting directly to the governor seemed to be doing better in terms of ICT staffing and training, hardware and software establishment and broadband connectivity. However, counties that had the ICT departments hidden under other departments seemed to have challenges in implementing most ICT processes in the county.

In concluding, the KICTAnet Convenor, Ms. Githaiga promised a bigger coverage in terms of the number of counties in next year’s survey. She noted that ICTA had played a great role in making the survey a success and would therefore like to continue with the collaboration in order to assist counties improve on how they use their ICTs to spur their economic growth and increase the national global ICT competitiveness. Finally, KICTANet promised to share the findings of the ICT survey with the Senate through the Senate ICT Committee and also with the Council of Governors in order to help improve service delivery and scale up the ICT maturity ladder for each county. 

Mr. Kariuki is an assistant lecturer at Multimedia University of Kenya in the Faculty of Computing and Information Technology. In 2020, he was involved as a research assistant in carrying a “County ICT Survey”, a partnership between KICTANet and ICT Authority (ICTA).

Mwendwa Kivuva information

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