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Safaricom CEO Sets Out Vision for a Connected Kenya at Cisco Expo 2011

Safaricom CEO
Safaricom CEO, Mr Bob Collymore

Technology is changing the lives of Kenyans by giving them access to services that they didn’t have before, as well as demystifying systems and processes using a mobile phone.

M-PESA (a money transferring system) is an example of a mobile phone innovation changing lives in the East African nation.

“The first product in the world that allows the unbanked to enjoy financial services without opening a bank account, services that are normally enjoyed exclusively by those who have bank accounts,” Safaricom CEO Mr Bob Collymore said during this year’s CISCO Expo that was held in Nairobi.

Mr Collymore said M-PESA is a lifestyle changing technology with more than half of the adult population of Kenya adopting its use. “Kenya has taught the world how to be innovative and how to use technology for development and now we must take it a step further,” he said.

The CEO pointed out that people are nowadays working in an intricately networked and globalized economy, it is important for every business to use technology to be efficient and to have meaningful collaboration among colleagues, with customers, partners and with suppliers.

Setting out a grand vision of how Safaricom could help to connect Kenya, Mr Collymore said,

“Everyday we give life to our vision of using innovative technical solutions that add value to life, that enhance the experience of doing business, that provide access to information or to simply have fun. We are putting in a lot of effort and resources to ensure that these technological benefits work for Kenyan businesses and the Kenyan people, whether their businesses are confined within our boundaries or extend beyond our borders.”

Safaricom is partnering with Cisco to offer Voice Conferencing facilities to set up and manage conferences through a Web Conferencing Portal, thereby enabling multiple calls that run simultaneously across the country and indeed across the world. “It is easy to use, it is secure, flexible and best of all, it is inexpensive,” Mr Collymore said.

Safaricom Video Conferencing is a tool that delivers the most comprehensive and reliable solution for video conferencing systems in the region, including High Definition video conferencing. Through Cisco TelePresence, people can work and collaborate without boundaries, effortlessly and securely with their colleagues, customers, and partners across various locations.

Cloud Computing is another business solution offered by Safaricom. Mr Collymore said “the reality is that we have all in some way or another experienced cloud computing. How? Well, if you have an email account with a web based email service like Hotmail, Gmail or Yahoo, you will notice that instead of running an email program on your computer, you log in to a web email account remotely. This software and storage for your email account does not exist on your computer – it is on a service computer cloud.”

Cloud computing technology helps reduce infrastructure costs as well as address capacity or scalability concerns. Safaricom is scaling it up to a solution that governments, businesses, and other institutions can use.

If an organization doesn’t want to own assets or operate systems in their own data centres because it is expensive and is not a key activity in their core business, cloud becomes a solution.

Technology comes in handy for today’s healthcare providers who have to deal with a number of vexatious issues, including rapidly increasing patient loads, limited access and ill-equipped facilities, shortages of qualified medical professionals and the overall rising costs of healthcare.

“Safaricom has partnered again with Cisco to mitigate some of these challenges that, in some countries including our own, can be quite severe,” the CEO said, thus “we have introduced an innovative solution that increases the efficiency of care delivery as well as the availability and flow of medical information.”

With Cisco HealthPresence, both the healthcare providers and public sectors benefit as it combines high-definition video as well as advanced audio and network-transmitted medical data to create an environment similar to what people experience when they visit their doctor or health specialist.

With HealthPresence a doctor in a reputable hospital can log into the HealthPresence platform and guide a health practitioner in a remote area (who is also logged into the platform), in a step-by-step procedure through an operation or a treatment process.

The work of Safaricom extends to all levels of society and across all sectors, as Mr Collymore explained:

“This means that Kenyans no longer have to travel across the country to access medical care in the urban areas. Through HealthPresence, medical solutions are being taken to them. We at Safaricom recognize the incredible value this remarkable innovation can add to the lives of Kenyans and we want it to work for them.

“We are also changing how we play (and learn). Safaricom is making sure that every home can enjoy access to video, data and voice through the Safaricom Connected Home. We have already connected our first Fibre @Home household.

“With this solution, we are able to provide Internet connectivity for multiple devices meaning that a family can enjoy telephony, internet browsing, internet TV and video.

“Safaricom is on the cutting edge of technology for both creative and practical purposes. We are able to take ideas and turn them into solutions applicable in the areas of health, education, business, entertainment and much more.

“As we all know, the government is faced with the huge task of implementing the Constitution. A quick look at the issue of devolved government and one can immediately see that the government will struggle administratively to take services to the people. The good news is that at Safaricom, we have the capacity to innovate solutions that ease processes such as I.D. card registration, passport issuance, tax collection, pension payments, security service enhancements, etc.

“Not only can we provide systems and services to each regional government, but also for the Central government. We can systemize communication from the centre to ensure that messages on critical issues like education, security, health are harmonized and transmitted seamlessly. This will completely transform communication between and within counties. The same is true for communication to and from the Central government.”

One exciting initiative by Safaricom and Cisco is the innovative virtual courtroom called “Tele-Justice” Tele-Justice is a perfect example of the dawn of a new era. Justice has gone digital and gone are the days when one would have to travel for miles to have their case heard. Tele-Justice will provide for the unmet needs of the people living in remote or rural communities.

“With the use of TeleJustice, legal hearings and examinations will be held via video-conferencing. This will provide a solution to address the backlog of cases, which is one of the biggest challenges that the judiciary is facing. The intention of such an innovation is the enhanced delivery of quality justice expeditiously saving time, money and resources.

“Through E-Learning, we can deliver the same or better quality education to a bigger population of students. We sees opportunity in leveraging technology to address the huge disparity in transition rate between primary school and secondary school, which is currently less than half of the student population.

“By adopting technology we no longer have to restrict school admission to the seating capacities in our classrooms nor deny those children who are in need and searching for knowledge.

“We can also leverage technology to overcome geographical barriers, where the teacher does not necessarily have to be in the same vicinity to that of his/her students to instill knowledge.

“As always we are delighted and grateful for the opportunity to participate and celebrate an occasion such as this. We salute and nurture partnerships like the one we enjoy with Cisco because we believe in working together, sharing information and showcasing innovative ideas.”

About Robert Okemwa Onsare

Robert Okemwa Onsare
Robert Onsare is pursuing Electronics Technology at the University of Eastern Africa, Baraton. He is a Cluster Strategy trained facilitator by Kenya's National Economic and Social Council (NESC). Mr Onsare has been an incubation student at the University of Nairobi, School of Engineering, FabLab, a venture project of the university and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He is a member of the African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS) and a published poet. Mr Onsare is based in Kenya.

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