Konza City, the planned tech city 60km from Nairobi, is elephant in its ambitions – when completed, it will be a whole city, after all, not just an office block. Needless to say, such a project is hugely complex, and involves a massive amount of money. USD7bn (approximately Sh588 billion), the planners say
. Even if investors put up a good part of this, the Kenyan government – and, in the end, that’s you, possums, the taxpayers – will still have to pay for a significant part of it. So where do you go to find out more about what GoK plans to do with your money?
The good thing about Konza is that the PS in the Ministry of Information and Communication, Dr Bitange Ndemo, is very willing and ready to answer questions – as I’ve said before, this is a tech-savvy man who will respond quickly on email and other platforms.
On the KICTanet mailing list, he recently explained some of the details and contradictions in Kenya’s procurement law that delayed land acquisition for the Konza project.
This is fairly technical stuff and, he says, wasn’t well explained in the local media at all. In fact, he and other list subscribers raised the issue of incomplete, biased or plain wrong media coverage of some of the issues related to Konza.
Now you can of course agree or disagree with the government’s approach to Konza, and the overall concept, and whether this is the best use of public resources and the best way to nurture Kenya’s ICT industry. But in all fairness, you need to discuss this on the basis of facts, and those are often complicated and, well, technical.
Add to this the peculiarity that many, many people here just love a good conspiracy theory, combined with the time-honoured tradition that practically every public (and other?) procurement deal has a good degree of shadiness going on.then it gets really difficult to disentangle what’s what. And this is where I think the ICT Board and the Ministry of Communication are selling themselves short.
Konza City has a website (www.konzacity.co.ke) – that’s the least you’d expect from a project that is built around the ICT industry. It has a few sleek images, but here’s the thing: They are not that sleek once you look a bit more closely, and there isn’t much more apart from sleek images. That the images are pretty (if a little futuristic) rather than detailed is probably because the whole project is still very much in the master-planning stages. But still: if you consider the discussions that you find on the KICTanet list alone, and some of the media coverage, the website content is just shallow.
I had a look around for another one of Kenya’s massive infrastructure projects, the Lamu Port and Southern Sudan Transport Corridor (LAPSSET), and found a webpage on the government website www.vision2030.go.ke. This has a useful overview of the project components with a short description, the location, and the implementation status.
But again, given the scale and complexity of LAPSSET, it’s bare bones here. Shreds of information. Shredlets, even. Same with the JKIA expansion and modernisation: Vision2030 has a short overview, but just look at the recent shenanigans with procurement tenders cancelled, people fired etc. Those, good people, are your billions of USD at stake.
So that your offspring don’t end up committing a chunk of their future taxes to investments like the non-existent fertiliser factory, here is what I’d like: For every government project above a certain financial amount, a detailed, well managed website. I.e. not just a picture gallery of ‘artistic impressions’ that sits around in cyberspace untouched like a billboard.
I want the venture’s full information, properly managed by someone who has a good understanding of the venture. I want all the planning details, all the tender details, status updates, all the information on legal issues – the complexities of public land procurement that Dr Ndemo explained in an email to an ICT audience should not be in an email, but should be posted on that website, too.
If the project managers feel that they have been misrepresented in the media, then I want this addressed, and addressed competently, not just with wailings of ‘I was quoted out of context and in any case, I never even said this and my people are being finished!’. I want answers to questions.
I want the relevant laws cited on the website, and explanations if new laws are anticipated, and how long this will take, and how it will affect project progress. The new PPP legislation, for example, has not yet been passed. That way, maybe shenanigans can be cut down a bit, and GoK agencies don’t need to rely on journalists to get their head around the intricacies – they will have their own platform.
Pipe dream, hey? Also, entirely unrelated, StoryMoja Hay Litfest at the Museum this weekend – take your brain out for a walk and find me there for a coffee!