Faced with perceptions of conflict of interest over Digital Villages projects, a member of the Kenya ICT Board has resigned.
Peter Kimacia's resignation comes after several months of controversy over his involvement in the ICT Board and his role as the head of the Digital Villages Network (DVN), a public-private sector partnership.
The ICT Board was formed by the government last year, and the board members were drawn from the private sector, academia and civil society. The board's objectives are, among other things, to develop and promote competitive ICT industries in Kenya.
The ICT Board has its own Digital Villages project, which it has branded "Pasha." Disquiet on the board, and in the industry, started when it emerged that members of ICT Board wanted to take over the Kimacia's DVN.
Kimacia has resigned from the board to run his initiative, which remains separate from the board's project.
During the time the board was formed, Kimacia was at the height of promoting the Digital Villages concept, and the idea of conflict of interest did not arise then.
When asked whether the resignation had anything to do with the board's intention to take over his Digital Villages Network, which was launched last year, Kimacia said that he could not comment and that if there were any questions, they should be referred to the board.
ICT Board Deputy CEO Victor Kyalo declined to comment on the resignation, but said that the board does not compete with the private sector, and that there could not have been any conflict of interest.
But Alex Gakuru, chairman of Kenya ICT Consumers Association, disagrees with Kyalo.
"It is obvious that Kimacia will be aware of all the information and steps that the board is going to take in the whole process. There is no guarantee that he will not use the ideas from the board to advance his own private sector-led network," Gakuru said.
Gakuru wondered how Kimacia would have been expected to make impartial decisions about suppliers and collaborators with the board while heading a potentially competitive initiative.
He would have acted "as the judge, jury and lawyer in his own case, which is not right," Gakuru added.
Bitange Ndemo, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communication felt that Kimacia should not have resigned because the government is encouraging as many people as possible to come up with similar projects.
"The government is not the only one that can run such projects, we just pave the way," said Ndemo.
Kimacia launched his project last July. Since that time, Kimacia has consolidated his network of private sector heavyweights in bandwidth provision, software and hardware.
Earlier this month, the government rolled out its own Digital Villages project. The plan calls for every constituency represented in Parliament to get a minimum of eight workstations, to be grouped within a 15-kilometer radius. The first workstations are expected to go online by the end of June.