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Technology can bridge literacy gap

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Technology is one of the country’s key drivers in realising vision 2030 and as a result the government has underscored universal access to ICTs as a major plank. Access to technology is expected to accelerate economic growth by reducing the cost of transaction and increasing business efficiency. Other benefits include improved educational standards and accountability for government officials.

According to the 2010 ICT access gaps study, some of the greatest challenges that curtail technology are internet and broadband. To propel the country to a top investment hub in the region as envisioned in Vision 2030, a large population needs to access the internet. The country has made tremendous strides in putting together an ICT policy framework and implantation strategy complete with measurable results.

The universal realisation of this strategy has been challenging given a myriad of challenges such as lack of resources, national ICT infrastructure, and electricity supply – particularly in the rural areas. As much as technology is bound to control present and future lives, it is important to obtain know-how of the technological reforms at the earliest.

E-learning initiative came into play as part of the economic stimulus package to schools to curb the challenges of inadequate funding during digital content production. The use of technology in education enhances better and improved methods of content delivery, as well as expanding the available teaching and learning resources. The huge opportunities that technology presents has persuaded both government and education stakeholders to roll out digital devices in an effort to improve children’s learning and prepare them for a highly competitive global economy that relies heavily on rapid technological improvement and innovation.

Affordable smart mobile devices

Despite the fact that there are a myriad of challenges such as inadequate ICT and e-learning infrastructure and financial constraints, the impact of technology if well harnessed especially among children who are quick to learn and adapt is quite huge. If these children are well trained, they have high chances of becoming experts. Evolution of affordable smart mobile devices in the market and easy access to free applications as led to exponential growth of technology. Students require regular access to information that depends on their education needs.

The internet is becoming a solution in bridging the literacy gap in the education sector, as it is regarded as an ocean of information rendition for school going children if well harnessed. The inclusion of technology in the learning process makes it a more enjoyable activity, thus creating a greater interest from learners. With the help of e-learning platforms, teachers and students are able to interact through web based portals and access the latest curriculum content through personal computers, laptops and tablets.

Samsung Electronics East Africa has stepped in to provide a technology-rich learning and teaching environment in rural schools.

In Rongai, Kajiado County, Samsung Electronics East Africa, introduced a Solar Powered Internet Schools (SPIS) Program at Arap Moi Primary School, which utilises cloud technology innovation to enhance the quality of education in rural areas that are outside the grid by providing a technology-rich learning and teaching eco-system. The program focuses on deployment of ICT Infrastructure such as Samsung E-board, multi-purpose Samsung printer and Samsung tablets to enhance learning.

Education is widely acknowledged as key factor in ensuring sustained human development. However, the ability to read remains a big challenge in the African continent. According to United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO) report in 2014, the East African countries had the lowest levels of literacy standing at 27%. This motivated corporate organizations such as Samsung to initiate a Smart school programme that focuses on the deployment of ICT infrastructure and professional development of teachers and students, with the aim of integrating ICT into their curriculum.

As industry and Government look forward with anticipation to the Innovation Africa 2016 forum scheduled for September this year, it is my belief that technological innovations will form the benchmark of the discussion. This Africa’s leading annual education and ICT forum should be a wake call for Africa arising as more than 30 African countries will be represented at the summit, allowing industry leaders and investors to engage constructively in realizing a technologically driven African continent.

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The writer is the Vice President and Managing Director, Samsung Electronics East Africa

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Opinion

Africa’s hope lies in developing entrepreneurial culture

There is little doubt that through the support of entrepreneurs we can have a positive effect on unemployment and working poverty rates

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President Uhuru Kenyatta and President Barack Obama lead a panel discussion during the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi

When it comes to the promise of Africa growth, progress has become less a question of what can be achieved – and more a question of what can’t we achieve? Our potential as a continent is a living, growing force that is difficult to ignore.

What we cannot afford to ignore though is the work that needs to be done to turn potential into success. As a continent there is need to start initiating practical solutions to some of the more pressing challenges that have already had a hold on Africa for too long.

And unemployment needs to be first on the list. Looking at a sample of unemployment statistics from across Africa, it’s clear we have a long way to go.

In Kenya, for example, the rate of unemployment recently hit a new high of 39.1%, according to the UN Human Development Index 2017. Meanwhile, Ghana’s graduate unemployment rate is also exceptionally high – the World Bank’s latest report on jobs in Ghana estimates that 48% of 15 to 24-year olds are unemployed. The current outlook in Uganda is also extremely troubling with 58% of people between 14 and 64 unemployed, according to the results of a National Housing and Population Census conducted by the Ugandan Bureau of Statistics.

The power of entrepreneurship

But the good news is that Africa is alive with entrepreneurial potential. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) provides a positive look at the total early-stage entrepreneurial activity (TEA) rate in a number of African countries. The TEA rate essentially measures the percentage of the population who are either nascent entrepreneurs or owner-managers of a new business.

There is little doubt that through the support of entrepreneurs we can have a positive effect on unemployment and working poverty rates. The EY Global Job Creation and Youth Entrepreneurship Survey 2015 revealed that 47% of entrepreneurs have plans to increase the size of their workforce.

ALSO SEE: Take these 3 actions if you want to become a CEO by 30

But despite this, the job creation expectation rate for many countries in Africa still remains quite a challenge. In light of this, we need to start questioning whether potential business owners are being equipped with the skills they need to achieve true business growth – the kind of growth that will start having a positive impact on the economic outlook for our continent. Or more importantly, are we equipping our children to create job opportunities or simply to build careers?

It’s time to think big

If we are going to achieve the level of impact we seek, we need to think bigger than just the funding of small businesses and focus on creating a true culture of entrepreneurship.

It was greatly encouraging to receive feedback from Fredrick Kimeu, one of Samsung Engineering Academy students in Kenya, who says the Academy came in handy for his development and nurturing of his hi-tech skills within the fields of electronics, technical and customer service support.

Kimeu says having gone through the academy together with his colleagues; they were more equipped with both technical skills and customer service experience through the internship program. This enabled them to initiate a business that focused on service and solutions domain with key focus on business and customer satisfaction.

It’s because of our desire to create more stories like this one that Samsung has implemented similar initiatives all across Africa. From Nigeria to Ethiopia, Ghana and South Africa, our Engineering Academies and Technical Programmes are helping to develop young talent into skilled professionals and future business leaders.

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Opinion

What’s the strategy on Somalia exit?

Let us not forget that Somali has taken us to the international court concerning our territory along the coastal areas. Sometimes, friendship can only go that far

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Kenya Defence Forces serving in Somalia under AMISOM in a march past parade

Recently, US President Donald Trump gave direction that his administration would take concerning the war in Afghanistan. He committed to adding more troops admitting that leaving Afghanistan is not an option in the short term. Afghanistan war is now in its 16th year and is billed as Americas longest war. Closer home, we entered Somalia in Oct 2011, and 5 years later we are still going strong there.

The discourse should now turn to evaluating our performance this far. Our goal during incursion was twofold : to stop Al shaabab from using Somalia as a base to launch attacks against Kenya , and to create a buffer zone along the border.

Since then, the dynamics have changed and the question should be how should we change our strategy? When we entered, Somalia was supportive of project Linda Inchi. The troops were cheered upon entering Mogandishu. And the leadership at the time came to Nairobi to plan operations.

Large swathes of Somalia including Afmadow, the Port of Kismayu were under Alshabaab control. The government was very weak and there was even a time when the Pm was based in Nairobi.
In Kenya the public support was very high And of course, we had not lost a single soldier in Somalia.

Now, six years later, Somali just elected a new government that is internationally accepted. Its goal is to rebuild its nation and move on. Kismayu and major towns were repossessed from Al shabaab and the gov’t security apparatus is slowly regaining foothold in these area. Terrorists are left to mostly guerrilla welfare. The gov’t and the people of Somali will never feel complete with foreign armies still roaming their land. As great our intentions are, we should be careful not to overstay our welcome.

Then, we are getting involved in the politics of Somalia, Punt land, Somaliland etc(rem when former governor of Meru visited Somali and miraa trade was banned?).That now touches the realms of diplomacy and not the might of the gun.

More players are also getting involved in Somali.US, UN etc. The Turkish army has also set up a base for among other things, training the Somali security forces. Shouldn’t our game plan be changing with these new developments?

Related: We can’t afford another conflict in Sudan

Closer home, we rarely hear about our soldiers in Somali unless when they have been attacked like Eladde. And as we come to bury our dead, we silently ask ourselves if it’s really worth it and for how long. Announcing a major shift in engagement with Somali would really boost the morale of citizens and allow us to exit while still ahead.

The coastal area which led us to war in the first place, are relatively safe. Tourism is up thanks to the security improvement. But Lamu still experiences random attacks and maybe we could concentrate our operations along our border.

Let us also not forget that Somali has taken us to the international court concerning our territory along the coastal areas. Sometimes, friendship can only go that far.

Finally, we would like to appreciate and to salute the patriotic soldiers serving in Somalia. Away from the public eye here in Kenya, you do a great job. As our president said on his visit to the camp in March, we sleep safer, because you are out there looking out for us.

May Somali not become our Afghanistan.

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Opinion

A historic decision, a tough road ahead

Kenya’s Supreme Court decision to annul the 8 August presidential election is bold and historic, but the path ahead will be fraught. A successful rerun within 60 days will need compromise on a better electoral commission, more accountable policing and more effective management of the high-stakes vote.

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Judges stand in court as President Uhuru Kenyatta's election win was declared invalid. Photo Credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner

The 1 September decision by Kenya’s Supreme Court to annul the results of the 8 August presidential election and order a fresh vote was at once unexpected, historic, bold and – by African and almost any other standard – unprecedented. The judgment compels many – Kenya’s political leaders, of course, but also members of the international community – to engage in some introspection. Most urgently, it requires both local and international actors to take urgent steps to ensure that the integrity of the forthcoming election is protected and that both the period leading up to the vote and its aftermath are peaceful.

By a 4-2 majority, the court found that the electoral commission had failed to comply with the “dictates of the constitution and the applicable principles” in conducting the poll, rendering the elections “invalid, null and void”. The incumbent, President Uhuru Kenyatta, whom the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission had declared the winner, will now have to take part in a new election to be held within 60 days. In the next three weeks, Supreme Court judges will issue a full judgment outlining the reasons behind their decision.

Unsurprisingly, strongholds of opposition leader Raila Odinga in Nairobi, Western Kenya and in the port city of Mombasa celebrated the decision. Odinga himself welcomed the judgment, calling it “a historic day for the people of Kenya, and by extension the people of Africa”. Initially, President Kenyatta struck a conciliatory tone, coupling disagreement with the decision alongside a commitment to respect it. That shifted over time, however. At a rally following the court’s decisionhe blamed the judges for attempting to “overturn the will of the people”, and subsequently asserted that the country had a problem with the judiciary that ought to be “fixed”.

Kenyatta’s more ominous tone is but one of the many challenges ahead as Kenyans embark on the perilous task of delivering a relatively smooth poll within two months.

Improving election supervision

At the centre of the looming battle, and by far the trickiest and most divisive issue, is the fate of the electoral body, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, (IEBC), which was criticised by the judges for committing “irregularities and illegalities” in running the 8 August election.

Odinga’s National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition is demanding wholesale changes in the commission’s secretariat and the resignation of six officials, including Ezra Chiloba, the Commission’s chief executive officer. Conversely, Kenyatta’s camp has signalled it would resist any such change.

On 2 September, Deputy President William Ruto ruled out altering the IEBC’s composition, accusing the opposition of not being ready to take part in the rerun.

That there were problems with the IEBC systems seems beyond dispute, as Crisis Group warned last March and as the Supreme Court found. Some change therefore will be needed if confidence in the electoral process is to be restored. But reaching an acceptable resolution will require compromise on both sides, not belligerent rhetoric. The opposition and government should immediately begin talks on this matter and seek a pragmatic solution that can be implemented in the tight statutory timelines. Odinga has offered a possible way forward: to get members of parliament to work in a bipartisan manner and agree on the appointment of officials who will conduct the rerun.

At a minimum, this is a positive signal, but whatever changes are made should include a rapid assessment of what went wrong during the 8 August election as well as implementation of safeguards to avoid a repeat of those failures. In the absence of an agreement, religious leaders and diplomats with leverage over key actors should step in to broker an acceptable compromise, as they did in October 2016 when the opposition led protests to oust commissioners that presided over the 2013 election.

Ultimately, going into the new election, the IEBC should heed Chief Justice David Maraga’s clear admonition: elections are a process, not a single event, and should strictly adhere to the constitution and statutory processes at every stage.

In particular, they should ensure that the expensive electronic system procured to improve transparency in transmission of results is deployed effectively and results posted without undue delay. Unexplained delays in releasing returns from tallying centres underpinned early opposition complaints over the 2017 vote.

Ensuring effective, non-partisan policing

If the electoral commission fared poorly in the elections, police forces did no better.  Security forces brutally cracked down on protesters in the aftermath of the voting, with at least 24 Kenyans killed by the police, including a six-month old baby. As an immediate step, the Independent Policing and Oversight Authority (IPOA), the state agency charged with investigating police excesses, should expeditiously probe the killing of innocent civilians and bring charges against suspects.

This, combined with a clear statement by the authorities that such behaviour is unlawful and perpetrators will be held to account, should help deter similar behaviour in the run-up to, and aftermath of, the new elections.

In the longer term, far deeper reforms of the security forces will be needed, involving in particular greater investment into training for conflict-sensitive policing.

The role of observers

Observer missions were not spared by Kenyans unhappy with their elections. In reality, observers for the most part made their preliminary statements with caveats, underscoring that they were but initial assessments of voting and counting. Few of those statements could be read as ringing endorsements of the polls, while most highlighted significant flaws.

Some observers subsequently took the unusual step of criticising the lack of transparency and speed in tallying of the results. None dismissed Odinga’s complaints, instead calling on him to pursue them through the courts not the streets, which, to his credit, he did, with the stunning results we now know.

That only goes so far, however. The impression created, by the statements themselves and by observers’ other pronouncements, was that results were accurate, and it was time to move on.

As the Supreme Court explains its reasoning, and more facts come in, there are lessons to be learned by all ahead of the next round. The timing and tone of preliminary statements after a complex and tense election always poses dilemmas for observers.  Early statements risk precipitous and flawed assessments, with consequences for observers’ credibility.

But they can also calm jittery nerves. In 2007, the European Union delayed its statement by a few days, but was criticised at the time for reinforcing the sense of uncertainty that played into the post-election violence. As in all such circumstances, parties that were involved – such as observer missions and independent organisations, Crisis Group included – stand to gain by engaging in a measure of introspection and lessons learned.

There is, particularly among opposition ranks, understandable anger, justified or not, at the international observers’ performance. Yet all Kenyan leaders should hold their fire.  Observers, like the media and outside organisations, can play a central role in deterring abuse and in improving the atmosphere in heavily polarised environments marked by low trust in public institutions. Their voice in what is likely to be a fraught campaign and poll over the coming weeks will be critical. In this context, observer missions will need to redouble efforts to define precisely and with greater clarity their conclusions in all public statements.

The Supreme Court’s decision represents a victory for the independence of Kenya’s judiciary and the rule of law. The onus now shifts to the country’s politicians, and to those in the international community with influence over them, to act responsibly so that Kenyans can witness a smooth, peaceful and credible vote by the end of October.

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Opinion

Security: Why you should remain alert even after elections

While Kenya enjoys an overall medium security risk level, the situation within the country is complex and should not be underestimated

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Kenya security officers on patrol during the just-ended elections

Recently, security and safety of staff has been very much in the minds of employers in Kenya as they have sought to prepare employees for the potential consequences of post-election violence and disorder. Now that the elections have passed, largely without major disruption, some might fall back to ‘business as usual’ without thinking too much about the day-to-day responsibilities companies have towards their employees.

National and international Duty of Care Regulations clearly define the liabilities of managers in the case of failure of ‘adequate procedures’ to protect their employees. Recent examples have shown that any organisation – corporate or NGO – needs to comply. Significant financial penalties in the form of fines just add to the reputational damage that follows.

While Kenya enjoys an overall medium security risk level, the situation within the country is complex and should not be underestimated.

Anyone living in Kenya is quite aware of that. We secure our homes, offices and schools. We try to avoid driving late at night so that we don’t get hit by drunk drivers. We try to be supportive for the work of the police and judiciary in the hope of maintaining a deterrent to crime. Some of us living in Kenya sign up for security, ambulance or fire services in the hope that if we need them, they will be with us on-time.

Employers need to respond to the threat

But responsibilities for staying safe do not only lie in the hands of us citizens – employers in Kenya have their role to play as well. They have a statutory duty to provide a safe working environment. Historically, this duty has mainly been addressed at the permanent workplace (the office, factory, school).
Some of Control Risks’ clients still wrongly assume that their duty of care liabilities only apply to the office.

However, the Occupational Safety and Health Act states that an employer’s duty of providing a safe working environment is not restricted only to its direct areas of control. Employers also have a duty to inform employees of risks of imminent danger and to ensure that employees are trained, aware of and understand the risks that may be present outside their permanent location.

SELF HELP: Seven things you must change about yourself to succeed

The real challenge comes when employees are sent on business travels. Most organisations maintain a mix of sales teams, engineers, maintenance operatives, researchers, and technicians who will regularly be in the field. So the question is: How can an employer protect staff and deliver the statutory duty of care outside the direct area of control?

The very first thing an employer must do is assess the risk to the employee, which will be defined by the status of the individual travelling, his/her destination, but also for example by the transport method available. Flying a work team to Mombasa using hotel transfers and a researched hotel will represent a much lower risk than sending a work team to Kisumu using public transport, boda boda transfers and a personal choice of accommodation.

Related: Risk management firm launches intelligent security system

Once a good plan is in place, staff awareness training, use of the correct equipment, safe and inspected vehicles, driver training and behaviour monitoring are just some of the steps employers can take to reduce the risks for their staff. In our experience, responsible employers are providing many, if not most, of these services.

These measures will all help to prevent or reduce the chance of an incident occurring, but what happens when things go wrong and people are injured or find themselves in a threatening situation?

Struggling public services

A problem we are facing in Kenya is that there are inadequate emergency response and communication systems available to meet our needs in the event that a potential threat turns into an actual incident. We ask ourselves: How long will it take for the police to arrive after a home invasion? What is the ambulance response time in the event of vehicle collision? How long will I have to wait for a recovery truck on the side of a highway at night if my car breaks down?

ALSO READ: KK Security boosts mobile response service

We will struggle to find statistics in Kenya to analyse how much our risk of loss, injury or death is amplified by slow, inadequate or no response at all. But we will probably all agree that a fully equipped life support ambulance arriving within minutes is more likely to save a life than a less well-equipped vehicle arriving after an hour because the ambulance is coming from a hospital 50km away.

Closing the response gap

While we struggle to reduce response times and improve response capability, the good news is that there are now services and technologies available which can help to close the gaps in communications and response. Companies can play a key role here in offering services to their employees that are not – or not adequately – covered by the public sector.

It all starts with communication: Providing a professional 24/7 security and safety response helpline is a key ingredient. This should be combined with an emergency panic-button app that not only alerts a 24/7 response centre, but also confirms the precise location which enables a faster, more precise response.

The next key element is to be able to assess the situation, provide professional advice, and then contact the appropriate responders to arrange emergency support – be it medical, police, breakdown services, fire response or even insurers. There is a mantra within the emergency response community that “seconds save lives”, and so the lines of communication must be robust.

Employer branding

The benefits of such response services for companies and employees are significant. By professional initiation and coordination of response services, together with security advice by the provided response experts and rapid escalation to the company’s management, incidents can be assessed and managed in the shortest time possible, and with the best available resources. Employers can offer these benefits to all employees, or higher-risk groups, as part of an employee attraction and retention strategy, and enjoy high-benefit solutions at affordable costs.

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