The race to deliver one of Jubilee’s flagship 2013 election pledges started Tuesday with the award of a contract to supply free laptops for school children to two consortiums led by public universities.
The bids for the Sh17 billion project were jointly won by Moi University and its partner, JP SA Couto, and by Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and its partner, Positivo BGH.
Positivo is a joint venture between Positivo Informática Brazil and Argentina BGH while JP SA Couto is a South African research and investing firm.
Moi University’s main campus is in Eldoret while JKUAT’s main campus is in Juja.
Moi University and its partner will oversee the supply, installation and commissioning of the Digital Learning Solution for schools in 26 counties while JKUAT and its partner will supply the laptops to 21 counties. The first batch must be delivered by June.
With just 18 months to the 2017 General Election, Jubilee’s pledge to give free laptop computers to pupils joining Standard One was running behind schedule.
The first group of beneficiaries was to have received the computers in January 2014 but attempts to supply the gadgets have been marred by legal disputes.
Also read: Laptops for schools project revived
Tuesday, President Uhuru Kenyatta warned that suppliers who attempt to use the courts to stall the rollout will be blacklisted.
“Unnecessary competition by vendors has to stop if the country is to move forward and achieve its development targets,” he said at State House, Nairobi, while receiving the World Bank’s Digital Dividend report. “We must move away from a vendor-driven society. Kenyans are interested in affordable and efficient services.”
A previous tender stalled after a losing bidder went to court. The tender was eventually cancelled and the process started afresh.
Teachers have been trained and the curriculum prepared in readiness for the supply of the computers from May this year.
The Energy Ministry has also been connecting schools to the national electricity grid and the CS, Mr Charles Keter, has directed that all primary schools be connected by tomorrow.
The suppliers are first required to demonstrate their ability in May by connecting 150 selected urban, peri-urban and rural schools across the 47 counties.
The ICT Authority — which is the lead implementing agency — said the two public universities must meet set targets or have their tenders revoked.
“They must get specified devices set by the government, they must also have logistical ability to deliver and support delivery, in their target counties within the given timelines,” said Mr Robert Mugo, the acting ICT Authority CEO. “If they do not deliver we will look at other contestants who lost with a close margin but have the potential to deliver.”
The project will be implemented by an inter-ministerial team set up by President Uhuru Kenyatta in May last year.
The team has representatives from the ministries of Education, Industrialisation and Enterprise Development, Energy and Petroleum, the National Treasury and the Office of the Attorney General. It is expected to oversee the supply of laptops to 1.2 million pupils in 22,000 public primary schools by close of this year.
If successful in the pilot stage, JKUAT and Moi will go ahead to deliver the first batch of 600,000 computers by June, with the second batch to be delivered in June 2017.
Components that form the base of the project — such as the content for Standard One pupils — was launched in December by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development. The content is available on a universal platform on link http://kicdinteractivecontent.ac.ke/.
The laptop project was part of Mr Uhuru Kenyatta’s and Mr William Ruto’s election pledge when they were campaigning in 2012.
It was, however, derailed by disputes and allegations of corruption in tendering.
The contract was first awarded to Olive Telecommunications but was revoked by the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board in 2014.
It is a breakthrough to the Jubilee government that the finalists have been shortlisted especially ahead of the 2017 presidential elections.
A senior research analyst at Standard Investment Bank, Mr Eric Musau, said the project has been handled with integrity this time and this could give Jubilee an edge in the 2017 elections.