Last week, the new Cabinet Secretary for ICT, Mr Joe Mucheru, was kind enough to bring his two Principal Secretaries, Mr Victor Kyalo and Mr. Sammy Itemere, along to a meeting hosted by the Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet.)
KICTANet is a multi-stakeholder platform for individuals and institutions interested and involved in ICT policy and regulation in Kenya.
It aims to act as a catalyst for reform in the ICT sector, in support of national aims of ICT-enabled growth and development.
At the meeting, the CS was handed an ICT Wish List which had been crowd-sourced over five days from media, civil society, academia, companies, regulators and software developers, amongst others who subscribe to KICTAnet.
Rolling out ICT infrastructure and services to the county level was mentioned. In particular, mobile operators decried the many permits that numerous agencies demand before they allow the extension of services to rural areas.
In traditional governance frameworks, stakeholders, or people who have an interest in a particular issue, coalesce around groupings categorised by industry (e.g. the GSM Association), profession (e.g. the Law Society of Kenya) or politics (e.g. Jubilee or Cord).
PROFESSIONAL "BLIND SPOT"
It is always easier for the government to engage with such organised groupings, since they represent and articulate consolidated positions.
However, they tend to have an inherently narrow, tunnel-vision approach to issues that are often cross-cutting, requiring multi-dimensional solutions.
A software developer, for example, may not appreciate the legal or even human rights dimensions of, say, the security surveillance system that he or she is developing.
By design, such issues are rarely discussed in computer science classes and will therefore form part of the ‘blind-spot’ in an otherwise excellent software developer.
This is precisely where multi-stakeholder governance frameworks become useful. Participants from diverse backgrounds can meet and place different perspectives to a specific problem on the table.
Sometimes it can, and does, get nasty and personal. Each of the diverse groups present may not appreciate that, by virtue of their training, they have a “blind spot” that prevents them from seeing other points of view. Yet the problems the world faces today are complex, and solutions to them require multi-dimensional perspectives.
A solution that addresses only one aspect of the problem - as perceived by a single set of stakeholders - will in the long-term aggravate, rather than solve the problem.
Perhaps, in his own wisdom, the new CS appreciates the limitation of the ‘tunnel-vision’ type of engagement arising from special-interest groupings as compared to the benefits offered by the multi-stakeholder governance framework. He received, and commit to address, the issues raised in the submitted ICT Wish List.
Many who attended were quite happy with the meeting and looked forward to similar engagement in future. There will, of course, be numerous opportunities to test this new consultative way of doing business.
Mr Walubengo is a lecturer at the Multimedia University of Kenya, Faculty of Computing and IT. Email: [email protected], Twitter: @jwalu