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Research: Kenya among top data collectors

Kenya is among the most advanced countries in collecting and managing data in Africa, a global development think-tank has revealed.

Some technology and development experts have even described the country as the “Silicon Savannah” of Africa, says a report published by the  Overseas Development Institute (ODI).

“A supportive government, the high rate of mobile phone penetration and the growth of technology innovation spaces is  behind the country’s data leadership,” reads the report by the UK-based think-tank on international development and humanitarian issues.

Kenya, says the report, has in the past decade been at the forefront of investing in telecommunications technology, open data and encouraging innovation.

Under the leadership of the then Permanent Secretary of Information and Communication Bitange Ndemo, Kenya took giant steps in connecting the country.

“Ndemo encouraged the laying of four fibre-optic submarine cables which resulted in Kenya becoming the African country with the highest bandwidth per person, the fastest speeds and some of the lowest internet costs in Africa,” says ODI’s Elizabeth Stuart.

This, she adds, in turn lowered the barriers to entry for technology entrepreneurs and companies to develop mobile-and data-driven enterprises.

M-PESA SUCCESS

High mobile penetration and the success of Safaricom’s mobile money platform M-Pesa have made the country stand out from the rest both in the continent and beyond.

Thanks to the government’s hands-off but supportive approach in M-Pesa’s initial stages, it took off, laying the groundwork for mobile applications to be used in other sectors.

The growing use of the technology made  innovation hubs such as iHub possible.

These in turn led to the creation of a large segment of the country’s unstructured data, including Ushahidi (a crowd sourcing and crowd-mapping platform), Ma3Route (a social media-based traffic tracking platform) and mFarm (an online farming market-place).

“The establishment of this tech community, paired with a supportive government, has helped to encourage leading technology companies such as IBM, Oracle, and Google to invest in Kenya,” adds the report.

The report urges Kenya to close the glaring gaps in data needed in various development projects if the country’s economy is to improve.

The opening up of government procurement data could expose price differences and save the government approximately Sh100 billion annually, says the report

Investing in better economic data will also act as an incentive for international investors to plough their monies into the country, it says.