Hustler Fund and other Key Insights from Day 1 Connected Summit 2023.
The Connected Summit 2023 kicked off yesterday in Diani, Kwale County, with the theme of “Digital Economy: Endless Opportunities Shaping Our Future”. The summit, which is jointly organized by the ICT Authority, and private sector stakeholders, brought together regional and global ICT industry leaders, policymakers, executives, financiers, and innovators to share knowledge, case studies, best practices, and lessons learned based on their experiences.
One of the highlights of the day was the announcement of the adoption of the Hustler Fund. According to George Njuguna, Director of IT at Safaricom who presented the nature of the partnership between Safaricom and the government of Kenya, more than 18 million Kenyans have already registered on the Hustler Fund, and so far, have borrowed up to Kshs 26.4 billion. Kenyans appear to have taken a lot of interest in the low-interest rate loan (8 percent a year) that also requires them to give the government 5 percent of the loan to be kept on their behalf by the government as savings. The fund aims to provide affordable credit to sections of the population that have been left behind for far too long, such as personal, micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). This is a remarkable achievement that shows how millions of Kenyans are in desperate need of low-interest loans such as the Hustler Fund. It is however still uncertain if those who have borrowed from the Hustler Fund are being transformed in any meaningful way.
Another key topic that was discussed was the laying down of fiber optics infrastructure across the country to enhance connectivity and digital inclusion. The government through Kenya’s Digital Superhighway initiative aims to lay over 100,000 km of fiber optic cable throughout the country, with over 25,000 km currently laid. Safaricom is among the companies supporting the initiative, having contributed 13,000 km of fiber. Last year, the Digital Master Plan was announced, which aims to make Kenya a leading ICT-driven country by 2032. The government has built over 9,000 km of terrestrial fiber optic cable, with 534 km of infrastructure linked to 1,650 public institutions and offices. The plan is to lay 100,000 km of fiber before the current administration’s first term ends.
The summit also featured sessions on the place of Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics in driving the digital economy. Experts from academia, industry, and government shared their insights on how AI and data can be leveraged to create value, enhance efficiency, and solve problems in various domains such as health, education, agriculture, security, and governance. They also highlighted the challenges and opportunities that come with adopting AI and data-driven solutions such as ethical issues, data quality and availability, skills gap, and regulatory frameworks.
The Connected Summit 2023 continues today with more panel discussions, workshops, and interactive sessions that will cover other aspects of the digital economy such as cybersecurity, blockchain, cloud computing, digital transformation, innovation ecosystems, and women in tech. The summit will also feature the Connected ICT Innovation Awards which will celebrate Kenyan entrepreneurs who have launched new ICT products and services that contribute to the country’s development agenda.
Read: Key Talking Points at the Kenya Connected Summit 2023: Digitization, Capacity Building, AI, and More