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Gov’t set to build masts in 19 marginalised areas

The national government through the Universal Service Fund (USF) is set to build masts across 19 previously marginalised areas to improve mobile and frequency connectivity in unserved areas.

Speaking to KNA at the County Commissioner’s office in Mokowe during a forum with the county’s national government Administration officers and headmen, ICT and Youth Affairs Principal Administrative Secretary Eric Kiraithe said the Communications Authority (CA) had already ensured that 78 sub locations covering 330,342 people across 15 counties were now being served under the first phase of the implementation of the USF.

The USF is a special fund through which the national government invests in building masts in marginalised areas, and offers mobile networks and radio frequencies with infrastructure to set up their signal in areas that they would otherwise ignore due to perceived lack of profitability or insecurity prone areas.

The mobile service providers and radio frequency operators are then offered subsidies to set and operate their networks in the unserved areas.

“Lamu is one of the regions that the CA is targeting for the masts being built under the auspices of the USF to enable mobile service providers set up their signals in areas such as Mangai, Barsuba and Milimani that have been ignored in the past due to insecurity fears,” Kiraithe stated.

He further noted that it is the government’s aim to ensure that all area are connected to the mobile network grid to enable security agencies tackle insecurity fears promptly especially within the Boni area.

“Not only will security response be tightened once the masts and the signals are set up in these areas, but also e-connectivity will become a reality and the national government can better serve its people through Huduma services once mobile connectivity improves in these areas,” the ICT and youth affairs principal administrative secretary said.

He said that under the USF mobile connectivity in all parts of Kenya regardless of how far flung they are, will be 3G and above adding that this will further improve the socioeconomic standing of most areas that have been marginalised.

Kiraithe also stated that the rollout of phase 2 of the USF programme is already underway with the expectation that the mobile masts will further supplement the government’s investment in two security roads that cut across the Boni area to improve security in the region.

“Mobile connectivity in most of these areas will also enable schools effectively implement the CBC curriculum, which has segments that are dependent on Internet connectivity,” he said.

Lamu Central Deputy County Commissioner Charles Kitheka who also spoke to the media hailed the USF initiative stating that it will improve security in the area by ensuring communication is a reality in areas that have been most prone to attacks due to lack of mobile connectivity.

“Security response will greatly improve in most of these areas where the Communications Authority will set up these masts, since militants and criminals have mostly been taking advantage of the lack of mobile connectivity to carry out their crimes,” Kitheka reiterated.

He further urged residents living in areas where the mast will be set up to work closely with security agents to ensure the safety of the communication equipment, adding that they are being set up for the community’s collective benefit.

Sentiments echoed by Mangai Assistant County Commissioner Farah Khalif who stated that insecurity challenges in the Boni area have been mainly due to communication challenges and that the USF facilitated masts will improve.

He urged locals to aid the local administration to ensure the safety of the masts due to the collective benefit they will have in connecting the Boni area to the mobile connectivity grid.

By Amenya Ochieng and Cynthia Lodite 

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