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ICT CS tours Turkana, pledges expansion of ICT connectivity countrywide

Cabinet secretary for ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs Joe Mucheru has expressed the government’s commitment to expanding the internet connectivity in the country to create employment for the youth.

Speaking while on a tour of Turkana county on Saturday, Mucheru said the ministry is expanding connectivity to not just county headquarters but also sub counties.

The CS who was accompanied by his Petroleum and Mining counterpart John Munyes toured Start Up Lions, Loropio campus.

“This is a great vision which aligns with the Ajira digital programme that trains youth and allows them to earn a living by working online,” he said.

He noted the organization has collaborated with other institutions, including some in Australia, to offer courses such an animation and graphic design and has also secured jobs from international companies.

He added that the government will also support the youth to acquire driving licenses through the National Transport and Safety Authority and acquire skills through the National Youth Service and Technical Vocational Education and Training Institutions.

Start Up Lions Founder Ludwig Bayern said the organization is committed to change the face of the county and uplift youth from poverty by equipping them with skills that will enable them earn a living.

Cabinet secretary for ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs Joe Mucheru (centre) and Petroleum and Mining CS John Munyes (right) during a tour of Turkana county.

“We have discovered that the biggest resource in Turkana is not oil or diamond but the minds of young people who, when given the right opportunity, can turn this place to a place of technology so that people will in future come and learn here,” said Bayern.

Through the Loropio campus 300 youth have acquired skills in website development, graphic design, animation among others.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology (MoICT) through the ICT Authority has commissioned the rehabilitated Eldoret to Nakodok fibre optic cable and launched the construction of the 630 km high speed fibre optic cable that is funded by both the government of Kenya and World Bank to the tune of Sh 3 billion.

Turkana County Governor Josphat Nanok, who was the Chief Guest, said upon completion the project will benefit communities, government entities and businesses operating in his county as well as promote cross-border trade with South Sudan communities with the most remote part of Kenya.
“Towns such as Eldoret, Kitale, Lodwar, Kakuma, Lokichar and Lokichoggio will greatly benefit from the new fibre optic cable in line with the Ministry’s long term plans to transform lives through smart ICT infrastructure and bridging the digital divide,” he said.

Speaking during the event, the Ministry of Transport & Infrastructure representative Eng. James Kungu said the project has been under implementation from November 2015 and will close in December 2021. Besides the fibre optic cable, the World Bank will finance construction of 338 km of the road from Lokichar to the border and Kainuk Bridge which is at the border of Turkana and West Pokot counties.

“In the recent past, the Government and the World Bank have shifted project design from the traditional sector-specific project activities to a more inclusive multi-sectoral approach. This has seen the enhancement of collaboration amongst several sectors including ICT, Transport, trade and industry, among others. This has had the effect of enhancing project results and widening the beneficiary communities,” he said.

ICT Authority CEO Dr. Katherine Getao said, “The ICT Authority has completed rehabilitation of fibre optic cable from Eldoret town and a wireless solution has also been extended to Nadapal. This section of the project will provide connectivity between Northern Rift part of Kenya to the counties of Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Turkana and West Pokot.”

Speaking during the ground breaking for commissioning of the Eastern Africa Regional Transport Trade and Development Facilitation project in Nadapal, she said the internet connectivity with speeds of 100 GB/s will be used by the towns and facilities along the fibre cable corridor including hospitals, government offices, schools and telecommunication operators.

ICT Authority Chairman Prof. Fredrick Owino said Kenya is an ICT hub to its regional neighbours and the authority has a network plan to cover the entire country. He said that the mandate of the ICT Authority is to provide connectivity to all parts of the country and to provide digital services to all parts of the country with equity as articulated in the the FY 2020-24 Strategic Plan that expounds on digital infrastructure needed to support the digital economy.

“We are delighted to successfully complete a project that is designed to deliver socio-economic transformation to North Western Kenya and to commence the main build cable which will develop a huge information highway from the heart of Kenya to the border with our East African Neighbour: South Sudan,” he said.

The World Bank representative, Eng James Theuri noted that as a development partner, that the activity on rehabilitation of the FOC is complete and ICT services restored in the four Counties.

“We are also very pleased with the progress of procuring contractors for the Main Build cable noting that procurement of contractors to carry out the civil works and to lay the cable is complete,” he said.

The two projects are part of the Sh 54 billion (US$ 500 million) South Sudan-Eastern Africa Regional Transport, Trade and Development Facilitation Programme (EARTTDFP) that connects Kenya and South Sudan through the laying of a fibre-optic cable and construction of a superhighway.

This is part of a wider government of Kenya programme that seeks to support Kenya’s economic development strategy and address the mounting pressures to enhance connectivity to the northern parts of Kenya and South Sudan to the Port of Mombasa.

The project has increased internet connectivity to the local communities and enabled high speed internet access to key government institutions namely Huduma Centres, County Commissioner officers, police stations, schools and provided numerous employment opportunities to the youth especially during the construction phase.

By Peter Gitonga

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