Residents of Akiriamet in West Pokot County have celebrated the launch of a Digital Community platform that is meant to enhance education and technology.
The digital community shall be a centre that will be used to educate the community on e-health platforms available and a platform for which the nearby schools will be empowered to connect to educational content online for free.
The program is a global Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative (CSRI) of American Tower Company (ATC) which is an independent owner, operator, and developer of wireless communications infrastructure with its core business being the provision of colocation space, power and related services to telecommunications licenses to enable them to operate, maintain and deliver communications connectivity to the Kenyan consumer.
ATC has over 3300 telecommunications sites across all forty-seven (47) counties in Kenya. ATC Kenya launched the digital community in Akiriamet in collaboration with the Communication Authority of Kenya (CA), Airtel Kenya, and Liquid Technologies.
Speaking during the launch on Wednesday, West Pokot Governor Simon Kachapin said the objective of the project was to help to facilitate the community to connect to all corners of the world by reducing the time they spend searching for mobile network signals.
‘‘The platform will enable the residents to enjoy a host of services, including mobile voice, data, internet, and a bunch of other added services, including mobile money transfer services,” stated Kachapin.
Kachapin noted that West Pokot has for a very long time been faced with many challenges that call for concerted efforts from stakeholders and communications authorities to address.
“People of West Pokot have suffered from marginalization for a long reflecting from all sectors of the economy including telecommunication services. Residents have on many occasions been traveling long distances or looking for elevated areas such as hills or trees in search of signals for communication,” regretted Kachapin.
“I want to believe that this is part of the reasons that motivated ATC to establish a digital community here in Akiriamet,” noted the County Boss.
Kachapin noted that during his administration as the first governor, there was a need to improve the network coverage, especially in the remote areas of the county since the network coverage was at 60 per cent.
“I noted in the first County Integrated Development Plan for 2013 to 2017 that network coverage in the county was at 60 per cent,” the governor said.
He reiterated that one of Kenya Vision 2030’s objectives is to promote innovation by enhancing technology and making sectors involved in development to understand the role of technology in sustainable Development Goals.
“Technology, I must reiterate, is useful in many fields in our economy including education, healthcare, agriculture, logistics, energy, and entertainment,” stated Kachapin.
He divulged that the national government has a plan to establish ICT Authority offices at the county level through the National ICT infrastructure County Connectivity Program (CCP).
“This dream is to be implemented in counties through National ICT Infrastructure -County Connectivity Program (CCP), aimed at creating a wireless network infrastructure to all counties; digitalization of government records through automation of registries and increasing digital literacy skills through public Digital literacy,’’ the county boss explained.
He described the initiative as important for information and communication tools for security and development. “It will help in improving natural disaster recovery and enable security agencies to counter threats efficiently,” he explained.
Additionally, Kachapin indicated the initiative will facilitate development by helping the government and communities to reorganize development initiatives in remote areas where goods and services can reach the region within short periods of time.
CA Director General Ezra Chiloba in a speech read on his behalf by Western Regional Manager Mr. Musa Etiko said the digital community will undoubtedly change the lives of the residents of the Akiriamet location.
Etiko noted the Authority has a goal of creating a digitally transformed nation that will highlight the potency of mobile network connectivity. He said Akiriamet is among the 17 sub-locations in West Pokot County that have been connected to mobile network services through the Universal Fund USF project.
He further said the Authority applauds ATC for building towers in the various sites enhancing connectivity and more specifically for launching the digital community resource as a way to give back to society and in line with being a good corporate citizen.
“The digital community initiative will go a long way in complementing other efforts undertaken by the authority, such as supporting the integration of the internet into learning through connecting public secondary schools to high-speed internet,” he reiterated.
He disclosed that five secondary schools in West Pokot County have benefitted from high-speed internet. He assured that CA is focused on ensuring that Kenyans have access to efficient and affordable communication services.
ATC Kenya CEO Thomas Sonesson in a speech read on his behalf expressed the company’s commitment to connecting the world by making wireless connectivity possible everywhere.
Sonesson said the launch was its very first Digital Community in Kenya thus a momentous start to realize their dream of connecting every community with wireless infrastructure.
“Our dream as ATC Kenya is to create an inclusive society, where all members are accorded an opportunity to learn, grow and become better members of the society. Through this Digital Community, it is our hope that the people of Akiriamet and West Pokot, in general, will be exposed to more opportunities,” highlighted the CEO.
He explained that the Digital Community, although based at Akiriamet, is open to all members of the larger West Pokot County with plans underway to convert it to a center of excellence where meaningful gains in health, education, security, financial inclusion and connectivity, will be realized.
Naum Chepsurum of Akiriamet village said the project will benefit the entire community and mainly school-going children who are not able to get Wi-Fi at their homes and parents who cannot afford to provide internet services to their children.
Paul Loktari a resident said he has no TV set at his home and he will be visiting the digital community centre to access the internet facilities as well as watch television programmes.
By Anthony Melly and Richard Muhambe