The World Bank Group Board of Directors approved $390 million in financing for the first phase of a program that aims to expand access to high-speed internet, improve the quality and delivery of education and selected government services, and build skills for the regional digital economy.
The Kenya Digital Economy Acceleration Project will use a multi-phase programmatic approach (MPA) with two phases where phase one will run from 2023-2028, focusing on expanding access to high-speed internet, improving the quality and delivery of education and selected government services, and building skills for the regional digital economy, and phase two will run from 2026-2030, concentrating on building a data driven and secure environment for enhanced digital service delivery and innovation for the regional digital economy. The project will also mobilize an estimated $100 million in private capital by crowding-in the private sector for broadband infrastructure development.
“Broadening access to digital technologies and services is a cross-cutting pathway to accelerate economic growth and job creation, improve service delivery, and build resilience,” said Keith Hansen, World Bank Country Director for Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia and Uganda. “The Kenya Digital Economy Acceleration Project aims to help make Kenya’s growth more equitable by shrinking disparities in digital skills and connectivity, and expanding the digital marketplace.”
While Kenya has made impressive gains, there remains a persistent digital divide in access to broadband, digital public services, and the skills needed for individuals and businesses to thrive in an increasingly digitized economy and society. Kenya needs the economies of scale and network effects of a larger and more competitive regional market to achieve its vision to become one of the premier digital investment and innovation hubs on the African continent. Likewise, the lagging countries in the sub-region would benefit from greater access to Kenyan innovation and services.
“The initiative will increase last mile connectivity by boosting broadband network coverage for over 70% of Kenya’s population that resides in rural and underserved areas,” said Tim Kelly, Lead Digital Development Specialist at World Bank. “Kenya’s digital agenda, reflected in the ambitious ‘ICT Master Plan’, aims to transform the country into a regional ICT hub by increasing fiber optic coverage to 100,000 km and digitizing 80% of public services.”
The project will increase access to broadband through an expansion of the fiber optic backbone and last mile connectivity to government and learning institutions, as well as along Kenya’s borders, benefiting the regional digital market. The project will also boost digital skills to support the uptake of digital services and the development of a competitive labor force for the digital economy, and enhance access to regional and global markets through regulatory and policy harmonization with regional initiatives. As such, it aims to strengthen Kenya’s capacity to drive regional digital integration with positive spillovers to other countries. Expanded access to connectivity will also reduce the need for travel to access information and services thereby minimizing the carbon emissions footprint, and facilitate service delivery in times of emergencies requiring remote operations.