Thought to share Paul Kukubo’s posting here. I will react with my thoughts sometime but it brings to the fore the opportunity for local companies to partner with government, but also shows how local firms must have their A Game on…what was that about a ministry having an illegal server license and being off email for 2weeks? Two weeks!
A friend of mine walked up to me at the recent Nethope NGO BPO Workhop in Nairobi and said to me, “we are suffering, where are the jobs”. I replied to her to hang in there and play for the long haul. She responds ‘ I know I know, you keep saying that’. And standing next to me was a representative from Accenture Consulting (www.accenture.com) who has just made a presentation on outsourcing space. I introduced to my friend to the Accenture lady who in turn said to my friend it is possible that firms like ours in the markets that it we work, would seek to work with local companies.
What I did not tell her is that my friend expressed the very same frustration very same comment when she launched her BPO 3 years ago and she is not alone. Within a month of the Kenya ICT Board being set up, many enterpreuners bought computers and set up what they hoped would be data entry and contact centre operations. The Board was then seen as delivering jobs to them.
Last week one Permanent Secretary called in the ICT Board for a meeting with his key Ministry team to discuss and review ways in which he could get his mail system up and running. His frustration was obvious. He and his entire Ministry had been off email for two weeks. (Indeed he had to send me a summary of some his issues by using his Hotmail account). The Ministry runs a Microsoft Exchange 2003 Server that has worked in start-stops for months. As the meeting progressed various department heads gave their interpretation of both the short and long term, and here are some of the summary comments made;
- “The exchange server is obsolete”.
- “We need to up security, we had a tender to provide security software for so X hundred odd thousand USD”. The MTC (Ministerial Tender Committee) rejected the plan.
- “We need to migrate to Linux based server it is more stable.”
After everyone had spoken the PS in question reflected as follows; “Where does one turn to for the trusted advise on the holistic implementation of ICT in managing the Ministry, when vendors come peddling their wares here in day in day out?”
The Board offered two solutions
Working with the department of Egoverment we would provide a solution to the mail issue in due course. Turns out that the Server License is illegal and therefore the mail system has never been patched or updated since it was installed. So the argument about Linux in that particular instance was not even relevant. That was the easy part. But is begged a question. “How many unlicensed software installations are running? But more importantly, who are these license providers that get paid and don’t deliver. Licenses can be nebulous things because they are sooo intangible to decision makers”. Many decision makers will be told, we can avoid licenses by going open source, which is largely true, however that argument has to be informed by wider strategy, and clear total cost of ownership considerations. It costs less to buy second hand cars, but they can be expensive to maintain. Most global firms maintain both open source and ‘closed’ source deployments.
But again that was not even the point. Permanent Secretaries are Chief Executives of often large government departments with local budgets and service delivery issues far greater than most commercial organizations in Kenya. They require and indeed deserve to have the same level of strategic advice and ICT leadership as their private sector counterparts. But the structure as it is now often provides them with just enough technical advice to get by. Being told about servers and hard disk replacements and flash disks and toners that require to be bought.
With the current improvements in infrastructure, including the landing of the cables and the availability of high quality broadband, the rolling out of the National Fibre optic backbone across Kenya, the deployment of Government-Wide Core Communications Network (which is a Cisco grade MPLS network for those who are technical, or a very good fibre based network that can securely carry data voice and video traffic, for those who are not). Last week PS Dr Ndemo, took his colleagues on a tour of the new Government Data Centre.
So what’s my point, with all the investments government had made, it is time for private sector players like my ‘friend’ in paragraph one to align to the opportunity. Pastor Oscar, at the Nairobu Chapel told us last week about evangelism and the responsibility we had as Christians. He said our responsibility was not to convert others into salvation, but to tell them about the word. He went on to say ‘tell a beggar where to find food, and when he is hungry he will go there, it is not your work to feed him’.
The Government has sooooooooo! many priorities in service delivery to the common citizen, and with those priorities also comes the responsibility to ensure a corruption free delivery.
I would argue that with all the platforms in place, and with all these priorities, and with the current leadership that has focused so much on putting in place the environment; it is a good time for private businesses in ICT. The challenges provide the best capital for serious businesses to flourish.
The How, is the true entrepreuners game to figure. The What is all there, written all over the newspapers, blaring on radio, debated on mailing lists, spoken by citizens countrywide in long ques and delayed services. Necessity is the mother of invention… The challenges we face are our greatest source of business capital, let us invent.. “my friend”.