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CA to provide digital connectivity to underserved areas

The Communications Authority (CA) of Kenya has budgeted to spend over Sh.2 billion to provide cellular mobile network infrastructure to an estimated 635, 000 Kenyans living in rural, remote and underserved areas.

By utilizing the Universal Service Fund (USF), the Authority will by the year 2022 connect the digital services to 101 Sub-locations in 18 counties which include Baringo, Garissa, Kajiado, Kilifi, Kitui, Laikipia, Mandera, Narok, Lamu, Samburu, Tana River, Turkana, West Pokot, Wajir, Elgeyo-Marakwet, Isiolo, Marsabit and Samburu.

Dr Emma Otieno, the USF Manager at Communications Authority (CA), said that the Fund is geared towards providing support for introduction and expansion of commutation services to schools, health facilities and other organizations serving public needs for rural people and low-income households.

Speaking during a media training on USF, Dr Otieno explained that the Fund is also focused on ensuring reasonable availability of ICTs targeting Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) and other vulnerable groups at household and individual levels.

“About 94.4 per cent of the Kenyan population is covered by 2G leaving an estimated 5.6 percent of the population which is about 2.66 million people with no coverage and these are the people we are more concerned about and will be addressed by the USF,” highlighted Dr Otieno.

She added that the Access Gaps update is being undertaken by CA in partnership with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (UKaid) and the Access Gaps identified shall form the scope of Phase 4.

“USF intends to provide Public Voice and Data Services for the un-served and underserved Kenyans in Phases 3, 4, 5 at an estimated cost of Kshs.5 billion that is Sh.1 billion per year for five years from the financial year 2022/23,” said Dr. Otieno.

“We also have the component of broadband connectivity within government institutions providing essential services at a cost of Sh. 7.5 billion that is Sh.1.5 billion per year for five years from the financial year 2022/23,” she explained.

According to Dr Otieno, automation of the National Police Services (NPS) – Occurrence Book (OB), Crime Management and Resource Management Systems at a cost of Sh 221 million is ongoing.

Dr Otieno said that the USF has had tremendous outcomes with the people living in far flung areas and who have now been connected enjoying a better life.

“People walk for over 150 kilometers to search for pasture. Mobile communication saves them walking back another 150km to take the message of the identified location of pasture so that they can bring their livestock- this is what the area Chief, Dertu location in Garissa County told us,” said Dr. Otieno.

She underscored the increasing terrorist attack on telecommunications sites, especially in the North Eastern Region of the Country as some of the challenges they are facing in the quest to ensure that all corners of the Country have mobile network coverage.

“Complexity in terrain in places like Samburu, lack of electricity, limited access to devices, community resistance are some of the other challenges that we are facing,” she said.

Dr. Otieno pointed out that Kenya enjoys strong international gateways via multiple subsea cables and as result it has the fifth lowest broadband retail prices in Africa and they intend to extend these services to all Kenyans at every cost adding that over 95 per cent of the population is within 50 km of a fiber backbone node and 81 per cent within 25 km.

By Joseph Ng’ang’a

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