IBM has announced that it will throw its weight behind a plan to provide rural areas with computer services by providing systems and talent to further the initiative.
Media reports indicate that a team of IBM Corporate Service Corps consultants (CSC) from seven different countries will arrive in Nairobi this week for a one month project aimed at defining a roll out strategy for the Digital Villages initiative.
The new initiative follows the recent announcement of a deal worth billions of shillings between IBM and mobile operator Bharti, which will see the former take over the IT needs of the telephony firm as it launches new initiatives in rural areas.
“This will form part of our drive to boost ICT use in countries like Kenya,” said IBM CEO Samuel Palmisano.
The Digital Village initiative was rolled out in 2008 with the purpose of narrowing the digital divide between rural and urban areas and accelerating the growth of ICT in Kenya.
The IBM guided initiative will run alongside similar programmes being rolled out by other telcos as they seek to meet new regulatory requirements.
Under the regulations, each constituency should have at least five digital centres complete with computers and Internet connectivity — part of a government plan to bridge the IT gap.
Mobile phone operators, Safaricom, Telkom Kenya, Zain Kenya and Essar are required to roll out digital villages as the government implements part of the Kenya Communication Amendment Act 2009 which stipulates that the Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK) levies a one per cent fee on total revenue for the universal access fund on all operators.
“IBM is well known for helping public and private sector organisations around the world to leverage technology to drive innovation and do things smarter. The Kenya initiative is part of a programme in Africa which began in 2008 through which IBM has deployed teams to Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa,” said Palmisano.
The Digital Villages project will see IBM deploy its Corporate Service Corps programme within Kenya.
CSC is a global IBM initiative designed to provide small businesses, educational institutions and non-profit making organisations in growth markets with sophisticated business consultancy and skills development to help improve local conditions and foster job creation.
IBM deploys teams of top employees from around the world representing IT, research, marketing, finance, and business development to growth markets for one month.
They work pro-bono with local organisations and businesses on projects that intersect business, technology and society.
Since its official launch in July 2008, CSC has deployed 500 IBM employees from 44 countries on 29 teams to nine countries.
BRIAN ADERO in Nairobi, Kenya