A Reflection on Kenya’s 20-Year Digital Transformation Journey

The five-year “Digital Beacons” strategy set forth by the Digital Impact Alliance in 2020 hypothesized that for a country to realize the promise of national digital transformation and effectively foster digitally-capable leaders, specific factors to this transformation must be understood. Further, local capacity, rooted in the Principles for Digital Development, must be invested in.

Entities such as the UK Government Digital Access Programme (UK-DAP) are supporting this growing need by building relevant digital capacity in collaboration with a range of multi-sector partners to pilot responsible, sustainable digital inclusion and transformation efforts in five partner countries including Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil, and Indonesia.

Yet, current understanding of factors bolstering national digital transformation and capacity are widely varied and inherently uncertain. To address these gaps and test the Digital Beacons hypothesis, the Digital Impact Alliance, with the support of UK-DAP, sought to develop a case study investigating one of UK-DAP’s partner countries’ digital transformation to date, elements to its success, barriers to leveraging digital solutions, as well as the linkage between comprehension of the Digital Principles and increased digital capacity.

Based on its reputation as a digitalization exemplar throughout East Africa and the Digital Principles’ pre-existing presence in the country, Kenya was identified as the ideal pilot to investigate two key topics:

1. The correlation between digital capacity and Digital Principles training programs, and
2. The mechanisms driving national digital transformation.

For the first topic, the Digital Impact Alliance partnered with IntelliSOFT Consulting Limited, a company based and operated in Kenya. Specializing in digital health solutions for low-to-medium-income countries, IntelliSOFT also supports their clients in optimizing business performance through meaningful use of information, communications, and technology software for low resourced environments.

To date, the team has run the popular Digital Principles 101 and Training-of-Trainers workshops for local digital development leaders within Kenya. They have also been adapting Digital Principles materials reflect to the country’s development context, translating all curriculum materials into Swahili and improving accessibility to those with color-blindness and seeing and hearing impairments. Both in-person and virtual adaptions of the newly adapted training have been developed.

To continue building upon local capacity, IntelliSOFT also leveraged the Digital Principles Business Sustainability Model Toolkit to consider its long-term financial and community support. The Digital Impact Alliance and IntelliSOFT are in the final phase of the project, using GIZ’s Atingi platform to host all Digital Principles-related content and communities of practice. The anticipated launch date is projected for the end of 2022.

For the second topic, the Digital Impact Alliance partnered with Dalberg Advisors to conduct a study to capture and evaluate the common enabling characteristics that contribute to the digital transformation of exemplar countries, such as Kenya, and develop a template for global use. We are pleased to share the study report: Digital Drivers Template: A Reflection on Kenya’s 20-Year Digital Transformation Journey.

The Digital Drivers Template identifies six domains driving national digital transformation: 

1. Policy and Regulation: Market competition, taxation, incentives, and data protection
2. Governance: National digital transformation strategies and governing institutions
3. People: Human capacity–both digital skills and basic literacy, and habituation
4. Infrastructure: Digital connectivity infrastructure and non-digital infrastructure (including roads, electricity, and a national addressing system)
5. Enabling Platforms and Services: Digital identification, payments, data exchange, and interoperable systems
6. Business and Innovation: Digital adoption in business and trade and R&D

Additionally, it highlights exogenous drivers which can drive significant shifts towards digital adoption: 

1. Digital Champions: Having a visionary leader within government or civil society
2. Emergencies: Natural or man-made disasters such as pandemics and civil disorders

The Digital Impact Alliance and its partners look forward to continued development of resources that support country governments and their communities along their national digital transformation journeys.