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PS Has Faith in the Health of the ICT Sector

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Information and Communication Permanent Secretary Bitange Ndemo was treated to lunch by the Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK) recently. While there are no details about what was on the menu, rather than thanking the chefs, Mr Ndemo instead chose to pontificate about the health of the ICT sector. As you do.

Apparently, “Africa [is] the only continent ripe for investment in ICT,” according to Mr Ndemo, and that the sector will easily ride out the global financial crisis. So that’s OK, then: we can all go back to sleep, because somebody from the government has told us that everything is going to be fine.

I don’t have the full text of the speech to hand, so it’s impossible to tell if the PS made any reference to competition Africa may face from Asia or eastern Europe, or even if he acknowledged that they might be a problem. The report is also light on detail about how the Kenyan ICT sector might compete against continental rivals such as South Africa. A quote attributed to him, however, is quite remarkable for its insouciance:

We should not blame lack of performance in some industry players on the global meltdown. People are just giving excuses for not doing the right thing.

Absolutely mystifying. When investors are taking flight, credit is hard to come by and consumers are tightening their belts, what exactly is the right thing to do? It would be helpful if the PS had elaborated on what he meant. As it is, I can only assume that the correct course of action is whatever he approves of. Like buying him lunch.

The ICT sector will survive. But as CCK Chairman Phillip Okundi stated, the worldwide recession presents a “big challenge” for the sector. When people are worrying about their basic utility bills, they are not going to be overly concerned with downloading from Rapidshare or reconfiguring their MySpace profile.

Nevertheless, there is no need to lose hope. While the country collectively still has a long way to go, those of us already working in the ICT sector are still able to take advantages of the opportunities on offer. As the costs of technology and connectivity come down, more people will be able to participate in the sector. And while this process could take years, perhaps decades, so too could recovery for the economy as a whole.

Growth may not be as rapid as it has previously been, or as much as the PS desires. What is irrefutable, though, is that the progress that has been made has started a process that cannot be undone. We are already on our way; we simply don’t know how long the journey will last.

[Image by Mars Discovery District]


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