Society Transformation through IT

Published on 1st November 2005

This week the African Executive interacted with Dorcas Muthoni, an IT expert working at KENET as the Head of Technical Operations. She looks into the overall implementation of the policies and programs in the technical department, and oversees that all plans and projects are undertaken.

Q. What does KENET stand for?

A. KENET stands for Kenya Education and Research Network.

Q. What is KENET’s vision and mission?

A. KENET\'s vision is to be the premier educational and research network in Africa. Indeed, many African countries have learnt from us and have gone ahead to establish their own National Education and Research Networks, for example South Africa and Rwanda. Our mission is to provide education and research institutions with quality and cost-effective network services through a sustainable, high-speed and reliable national educational and research network.

Q. How does KENET go about its work?

A. KENET establishes sustainable communication and networking among educational and research institutions in Kenya through facilitating the wide use of Internet technology in teaching, research and sharing of other information resources to the general populace at an affordable cost.

It negotiates with service providers for subsidized prices for Internet and connectivity and passes the discounts to its members who are basically from all levels of education and research institutions. It also offers this to other stakeholders in the education sector such as the Teachers Service Commission (TSC).

Q. Define IT?

A. Information Technology (IT) is a term that encompasses all forms of technology used to create, store, exchange, and use information in its various forms (business data, voice conversations, still images, motion pictures, multimedia presentations, and other forms including those not yet conceived). It\'s a convenient term for including both telephony and computer technology in the same word. It is the technology that is driving what has often been called \"the information revolution.\"

Q. What part is played by the IT industry?

A. IT today has a role to play in all sectors of the economy. It has a role in government, businesses, art and design, education and all the other areas that one can imagine. IT, basically a service industry, is not well developed in Kenya and is catching up. The draft Information and Communication Technology (ICT) policy is already at the Cabinet level. IT services and cushions all other sector making effective and efficient.

Q. What is the role of IT in development?

A. One key role of IT in development is to enable the processing and storage of enormous amounts of information, along with rapid distribution of information through communication networks. This facilitates timely access to information therefore enhancing decision making. ICT may be described as the support of the central nervous system of complex societies, transmitting and processing information and commands among the various parts of such societies.

Q. Give an assessment of how African countries have integrated IT in their day today learning.

A. Most African countries have not greatly integrated IT into their day to day lives. I think the widest penetration of IT is in the use of mobile phones in Africa. However, Africans too have their own technologies though not necessarily packaged in what we all know as modern information technology. However, with most African countries passing ICT policies and their governments drafting e-government strategies, Africans are gradually getting there. I also see that IT can play a great role in transforming the lives of many women as more and more information can now reach them through the use of ICTs.

Q. Describe a working day in your life?

A. Since KENET runs a broad range of ICT projects, my day involves managing the Technical team, monitoring and managing the network, providing technical leadership to all aspects of development and designing solutions that address current requirements, allowing future scaling and integration with existing infrastructure.

Q. What is your personal ambition?

A. As a Computer Scientist, I would like to see Kenya as a Knowledge-based society. This will only happen if we integrate ICTs into our daily lives. I aspire to be a provider of IT solutions that facilitate this. I also intend to further my education and invest as I know that most solutions will be delivered through business processes.

Q. What challenges do you face?

A. The main challenge in the IT industry is lack of awareness on how much the industry can transform our society. This has led to slow adoption of IT in many spheres of our economy. The education sector is lagging behind and therefore not effectively playing its role as a catalyst to IT. Also, standards are not adhered to effectively hence denying customers’ quality and value for their money.

Q. What is the future of the IT industry?

A. The future of the IT industry in Kenya is bright. There is a lot of training taking place in IT, which means that a lot of solutions are going to be developed and supported. With the government having established a Ministry of Information and Communications in the year 2004, there is now a government structure to facilitate the growth of this industry. The policy environment is also shaping up with the ICT policy already at Cabinet level.

Liberalization of the industry is live, after the monopoly of Telkom Kenya ended in June 2004. There are a lot of entrants in the industry to build infrastructure as we have recently experienced Nairobi being dug  up to install a Metropolitan fiber back bone by some of the players.

IT catalyses other sectors by making them efficient and modern. We expect the other industries to benefit from the growth of the IT industry like it has happened in other countries to make Kenya a Knowledge-based economy. This will ensure that Kenya becomes a true player in the Information Age.



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