Covid-19 outbreak and its spread and devastation of life all over the globe have affected humanity in a big way. It is a major event in history that will tremendously change people’s ways of life. Unlike previously, many activities will be accomplished virtually. The big question is “what problems must Kenya address in a move to become more virtual?
The experience of what is happening in many institutions of learning is a good beginning and has lessons on the challenges of becoming virtual. Learners are being encouraged to use the internet and social media before normalcy returns, if ever. Institutions of higher learning have seen the light. The embryonic online teaching already taking place in some universities is a very good thing, but the reality is that it is only benefiting residents in towns where the internet, radio, and TV frequencies exist. What is happening to the majority of learners should concern all of us.
Indications are that Covid-19 has brought about a “new normal way of life” in all spheres. It is a watershed in world history and we must prepare to adjust the way we live including learning, buying and selling of goods, and services or trade.
Adapting the new normal has a lot of merits because the unprecedented changes happening in the world today demand it. For example, in the health sector, viral and bacterial diseases are on the increase. The climate sector has not been spared. There are increased floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural calamities. If one was to demonstrate this scenario pictorially, an inverted pyramid would be the result. Things are becoming worse and heavy as we move up the pyramid of life. There also increased conflicts and displacement of people. Many mind-boggling concerns pop up, but one critical issue to consider today is how ICT tools can be utilized. Many aspects of life such as in e-commerce and in e-learning are already taking shape and moving towards the new normal, albeit at embryonic stages. It would be strategic to transition to the new norm as soon as possible.
Managing the change to a virtual country throws up a challenge given that not all areas of Kenya have internet facilities, even radio, and TV frequency; there exist political interests that have a negative effect in our lives; our policies are mostly urban development-oriented; county governments do not seem to be clear about their development agenda, and endemic corruption exists in Kenya. Our political class and technocrats must change tact and bring up true “equalization” measures in their modus operandi. Equalization will not be achieved using old strategies. Change is needed and one area of change is to implement measures to make the whole of Kenya a virtual country through universal and equitable provision of internet services.
Citizens must be enabled and given the capacity to participate in decision making. To improve citizens’ participation we must recognize that true citizens’ participation under the devolved system, and under the new constitution, has not happened as expected.
As the government tries its best to address short-term problems brought about by Covid-19 we must all look ahead. Measures must be put in place to prepare for tomorrow. For this to happen, guzzlers of public funds with no regard for the public good must be dealt with. The runaway public expenditure impunity in Kenya today is regrettable. Ministers, PSs, and Heads of public institutions must become more visible in addressing these and many other societal problems. They must adopt the tenacity and the no-nonsense approach of the CS for internal security (former CS for education), and of the current CS for education.
Real change management today must be backed up by value-driven leadership. The efforts to choose value-based leaders for public jobs must be based on a transparent process.
Given that there is so much politicization of issues in our country making Kenya a virtual country is likely to face serious imponderables from political power brokers and their games. Many of those in the political class as well as many technocrats in the middle class do not appear to bother as the status quo serves their interests well. We need a change in planning and policy formulation. We must take care of the millions of Kenyans who continue to languish in poverty because of past mistakes in our planning systems, misdirected policy, poor governance, leadership, and serious inequalities among other concerns. Covid-19 has exposed the soft underbelly of our society. Inequalities and poverty are issues that need serious attention as we attempt to become a virtual country. These issues should really be the focus in the Big 4 agenda that has the potential to transform Kenya if well executed by selfless Kenyan leaders that need to drive the agenda in support of what President Uhuru Kenyatta envisions for the national as well as county governments.
County governments are closer to the people. Thanks to the 2010 constitution. They stand in a good position to direct their efforts to truly addressing societal problems such as poverty and inequalities, and in making Kenya a virtual country. However, the corruption and other social ills allegedly associated with county governments do raise serious concerns. Corrupt governors must be prosecuted without political protection by party leaders and other power brokers. Moreover, true citizens’ participation will give citizens more say to point out issues and get involved in decisions that help digitize life in Kenya. They can influence policy in terms of formulation and execution.