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More Kenyans In Unserved And Underserved Areas Get Connected To The Internet For The First Time Courtesy Of The Universal Service Fund

Over 750,000 Kenyans who were initially unable to receive or make calls can now enjoy mobile services courtesy of the Universal Service Fund USF-Voice Infrastructure Project- being spear headed by, the industry regulator, Communications Authority of Kenya.

The USF is aimed at facilitating network deployment and service provision in rural, outlying and economically unattractive areas, where telcos may not invest due to lack of economic viability.

Operators contribute a mandatory 0.5 per cent of the annual gross revenue to the kitty.

“Since the operationalization of the Fund in 2014 and the rollout of projects from 2017/18, we can attest to the vision that the creators of the Fund had in mind. Five years later, since we began the projects, we have witnessed first-hand the transformation we have created across various parts of the country,” Mr. Chrispher Wambua, the Ag. Communications Authority Director General said.

“We see the availability of mobile services in this area and indeed other parts of the country that has been connected through this project, creating a ripple effect in other facets of the society, for instance in health, agriculture and education services and also financial inclusion through the mobile money transfer services,” Mr. Wambua added.

In mobile connectivity, during the first phase, the Authority connected 78 sub-locations, covering 330,342 people, spread across 15 counties in Kenya.

The Authority is now in the process of implementing the Phase II of the mobile connectivity project targeting 101 unserved and underserved sub-locations spread across 19 marginalized counties in Kenya. So far, 20 sites in 20 sub-locations have been finalized with 15 now active.

Through the fund the Authority has managed to connect remote areas in Turkana, Marsabit, West Pokot, Samburu, Garissa, Isiolo, Mandera, Tana River, Wajir, Kwale,Kilifi, Bungoma, Baringo, Kitui, Kajiado and Narok counties.

Mobile connectivity, for instance, has added considerable value to the socio-economic activities of people across the underserved and underserved areas, spurring new enterprises. From agriculture to trade, education to security, Kenyans in the connected areas are now actively participating in national building and the global digital economy in many ways.

The Authority, through the USF, have a bigger duty to support the Government’s digital transformation agenda as articulated in the Bottom-up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA). Beyond fostering an enabling regulatory environment to enable innovation, the Authority is is now supporting the rollout of 2,500km of last-mile fibre connectivity across 19 marginalized Counties to increase access to broadband connectivity.

The Counties targeted in this project include Turkana, West Pokot, Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, Samburu, Marsabit, Mandera, Tana River, Lamu, Kilifi, Kwale, Kitui, Laikipia, Isiolo, Garissa, Wajir, Kitui, Makueni, Kajiado and Narok.

The other aspects of affordability of communications devices, the relative cost of ICT services, and the wider inclusivity agenda for youth, women, the elderly, indigenous communities and persons living with disabilities remain important issues that require candid conversations.

The Authority believes that in the next five (5) years, it shall have covered the entire population of this country, making ICTs at the centre of every Kenyan’s life, and with that, its vision of digital access for all will be a dream come true.

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