Excerpts of an interview between Mr. John Paul Okwiri ( pictured)  CEO, Konza Technopolis Development Authority and BL magazine.

John Paul Okwiri CEO, Konza Technopolis Development Authority (KOTDA).
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BL:   Give us a brief background of Konza Technopolis?

Okwiri :  Konza Technopolis is a key flagship project of Kenya’s Vision 2030 economic development blue print that aims to transform Kenya into a middle-income country with higher standards of living for the citizens. Konza Technopolis is mandated to develop a thriving sustainable smart city and a vibrant innovation ecosystem contributing to Kenya’s knowledge economy with a vision of being a leading global technopolis and innovation hub.  

In addition, Konza Technopolis is tasked with contributing to the transformation of the Kenyan economy into a digitally driven economy, contributing 2 percent to the country’s  Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and creating hundreds of thousands of jobs both in the physical realm and digital. 

Konza Technopolis is established as a mixed-use, high-density walkable city that accommodates a diversity of programmes  and districts . It is   designed to be a livable, sustainable urban environment that encourages high-value development and discourages sprawl. The smart city is designed on a stich framework, where a mixed-use bar running east to west from Mombasa Road is intersected by programme  bands. Bands include: university, residential, science and tech, and an office.

BL :  What informed the Kenya government’s decision to establish Konza Technopolis?

Okwiri :  Konza Technopolis is a key flagship project of Kenya’s Vision 2030 economic development portfolio. Konza was established in 2008 when the government acquired 5,000 acres of land from Malili Ranch, 60 kilometres  South East of Nairobi.

In 2013,  Konza Technopolis Development Authority was formed as a special purpose vehicle for the development of Konza Technopolis. In 2014, the late President Mwai Kibaki broke the ground for construction to commence. Construction was done in phases.   Phase one is   the development of horizontal infrastructure such as roads, walkways, installation of street lights, construction of underground tunnel to carry all utilities cables such as power, fibre, construction of common services such as police station, fire station and Konza Head office.  So far,  we are at 99% completion of phase 1 and we expect the President to launch it soon. We have also constructed a state of the art Tier III uptime certified data centre, waste recycling and water treatment plant among others.

Konza will be a world-class city, powered by a thriving information, communications and technology (ICT) sector, superior reliable infrastructure and business friendly governance systems.

The government of Kenya decided to establish Konza Technopolis as one of the key Vision 2030 projects which were aimed at propelling Kenya to a middle-income status through adoption of science and technology. The other key Vision 2030 projects were Thika Super Highway and Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).

Konza Technopolis was meant to prepare the country for the industrial revolution 4.0 through provision of space for technological innovation in all spheres of the country. It was to be the melting pot for science, engineering, technology, advance research and development

BL :   Highlight the major achievements of Konza Technopolis since it was established?

 Okwiri :  In the implementation of the Konza Technopolis project, we have  three  clusters namely :   information communication  technology (ICT) , life sciences  and engineering.

Under the ICT cluster ,  we are positioning ourselves as a premier centre for innovation and invention. Already we are implementing a government digitization project called Jitume Digital Laboratory Project. It’s a joint programme  with the   ICT Authority and TVET Authority  involving  the  installation   of   virtual digital infrastructure (VDIs) in our vocational and technical institutes. Konza is charged with setting up the infrastructure and providing the learning modules, while   ICTA is involved in installing fibre optic cables and TVETA is   providing the physical labs and resource persons. Under phase one, we are targeting to do 200 Jitume Labs across the country. To date, we have done over 150 Jitume Labs. 

This initiative is expected to provide digital skills to our youth hence empowering them to participate in the digital economy by working as transcribers, coders, developers among other digital jobs. The now famous slogan  ‘Finya Computer dollaritoke ‘  is because of this successful programme  where we have witnessed our youth  undergo digital training and start generating income. We are proud to be driving it.

The second cluster, life sciences involves providing an enabling environment for scientific breakthrough related to bioscience and new ways of working with health providers and industry.

It’s worth noting that Konza Technopolis and the Ministry of Health have developed a new medical system designed to unify medical records in public hospitals across the country. Known as tibERbu HealthNet, the system is also expected to provide a single point of information for doctors and nurses to access patient digital records during hospital visits, thus saving time and enhancing medical diagnosis. The system is a product of the Konza Technopolis Innovation ecosystem.

tibERbu HealthNet is expected to revolutionize the medical sector with its two components comprising primary care network (PCN) and electronic medical record (EMR), which have been successfully rolled out to various health centres across the country.  tibERbu HealthNet covers various service points in the hospital including registration, triage, out-patient department (OPD), in-patient department (IPD), specialist clinics and other support services like billing and  inventory. It enables doctors retrieve various reports from the system for efficient clinical decision making among others when running hospitals and managing patients.

Our aim is to collaborate for better health through appropriate partnerships with key stakeholders in achieving universal healthcare goals hence  impacting   the local community positively   by improving on local healthcare access and quality.

The implementation of this novel digital health system is informed by the strategies and results emanating from various policies including the Kenya E-Health Policy 2016-2030, health sector strategic plans, the e-Government as well as  shared services strategies rolled out through the e-Government Directorate and the ICT Board respectively. tibERbu HealthNet is suitable for use by sub- county and county human resources for health (HRH) (including health records information officers, medical superintendents, doctors, nurses, clinical officers, pharmacists, radiologists, lab technicians, county staff ICT officers, records officers, cashiers, accountants, NGOs working in the health industry and across the Ministry of Health offices.

In order to protect  the  patient’s   data, the system has been designed with strict authentication . Indeed,   to have access to the system, one must have a username and password . Users of the system have different privileges based on their roles in the system.

The third cluster –  engineering  –   covers energy, water, material sciences, electronics and related activities. This cluster is meant to offer space to the light industry such as assembling of mobile phones and accessories, electrical and electronic goods, drone assembly among others.

BL  :   Which hurdles have you faced and how have you addressed them?

Okwiri :   Being a government project , provision of adequate finances remains  the key challenge. The government has to balance a lot of   needs with the limited resources available. However, we are happy and appreciate the immense support we have been accorded through provision of funds to implement the various projects which are meant to bring Konza Technopolis to life. Allow me to quote the CS The National Treasury Prof. Njuguna Ndungu. when he presented the 2024 budget policy statement (BPS) to Parliament: “The government is committed   to strengthening   Konza Technopolis to bring together industry, academic institutions, and other innovators to co-invest in emerging technologies  and  to create high-quality jobs that leverage artificial intelligence, robotics, big data, Internet of Things (IoT) and other technologies”.

 BL :  Highlight the road ahead for Konza City?

Okwiri :  On a further and broader scale, the government has prioritized the teaching and learning of digital skills from the primary school level to tertiary level. This is expected to empower Kenyans from an early age with digital skills for the digital economy

Having finished phase one, we now look forward to the   implementation of phase  two  whereby the onboarded investors can now develop the vertical infrastructure which is their operational bases. We have onboarded over  one hundred and  fifty   investors and we expect them to start putting up their physical building.

Phase  three  will see us undertake further infrastructural development like light rail, warehousing facilities and other support auxiliary services.

 BL :  Kindly  highlight   other pertinent issues?

Okwiri :  The planned extension of the dual highway from Machakos turn off to Salama will ease access to Konza hence spur further development. We also look forward to the passage of the Konza Technopolis Act which will anchor our existence hence providing us with the muscle to develop as an independent smart city with  the   ability to engage various partners and generate our own income which we intend to plough back into the growth of the Silicon Savannah.

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