Strengthening the Emerging Digital Technologies Ecosystem in Kenya

About the policy brief

The rapid increase in devices (mobile phones, computers, sensors, etc) connected to the Internet (and thus to databases) has resulted in exponential growth in data generation and associated Emerging Digital Technologies (EDTs) that can “identify patterns in observed data, build explanatory models, and make predictions quicker and with more accuracy than humans” (Pawelke et al., 2017) EDT/x-data-based applications and algorithms are mainly created in the developed countries and often lack transparency arising from intellectual property rights, thus hindering realization of the enormous potential EDT/x-databased applications have in addressing socio-economic challenges faced by developing countries, including Kenya. Where applications exist, they are often not broadly accessible, especially for persons with disabilities, areas with slow internet connections or members of underrepresented groups.

In this policy brief, the generic term “big data” is unpacked into four overlapping categories of data: big data, open data, user-generated data and realtime data, and are collectively referred as “x-data”. EDTs are taken to include artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, geographic information systems (GIS), internet of things (IoT), and big data analytics. These methodologies are often used collectively. Gaps in support systems to develop EDT/x-data-based applications have created new digital divides between developing and developed countries. Further, barriers persist in use and take-up of x-data by decision-makers, competing data sources, quality of data, limited awareness of data existence, and inadequate transformation of data into useful information or tailoring to match the decision-makers’ needs (Pawelke et al., 2017). Kenya has recently ranked high in sub-Saharan Africa (4/41 in 2020 and 3/41 in 2021) and fairly well globally (71/172 in 2020 and 78/160 in 2021) on the Government AI Readiness Index (Oxford Insights and IDRC,2020; 2021). The index evaluates how ready a government is to implement AI in the delivery of public services.

About the University of Nairobi

The University of Nairobi, a body corporate established by an Act of Parliament Cap 210 of the Laws of Kenya, is the pioneer institution of University education in Kenya and the region.