L-R:  Broadcasting and Telecommunications Principal Secretary S Mr. Sammy Itemere, Communications Authority of Kenya (CA)  chairman Mr. Ngene Gituku, Universal Service Advisory Council (USAC) chairperson Dr.Catherine Ngahu and Mr. Matano Ndaro, Director, Competition, Tariff and Market Analysis at the CA during a meeting with stakeholders on the status of the implementation of the  meeting universal Service Fund (USF).

More than 2.6 million people in remote areas across the country are set to be connected to GSM network for the first time, through the Universal Service Fund  (USF) managed by Communications Authority of Kenya (CA).

The beneficiaries are residents of 166 sub-locations that have no coverage at all and were identified in an Access Gaps Study carried out by CA in 2016 with a view to determining the ICT gaps in the country.

According to the Study, 94.4% of the country is now covered by 2G services, leaving 5.6% – or roughly 2.66m people – without access.

The report noted that 5,657 of 7,149 surveyed locations across the country have 100% broadband coverage, while 418 have less than 50% coverage and 164 have no coverage.

The study also focused on limited ICT connectivity in learning institutions as one of the most significant hurdles to overcome in closing access gaps.

In a stakeholders’ briefing meeting on Universal Service Fund (USF), CA announced that it had completed installation of broadband connectivity in 896 public secondary schools spread across 47 counties.

These schools are now able to access high-speed Internet connection of 5Mbps downlink and 1Mbps upload.

CA administers and manages the USF created to support universal access to ICT services, as well as to promote capacity building and ICT innovation.

The Fund is financed by a 0.5% levey on the gross turnover from all ICT licensees.

Ngene Gituku Chairman of the CA board announced that the Fund has so far collected Sh7.1 billion and that the Authority is in the process of completing the first two major USF projects namely Education Broadband and the Voice Infrastructure projects. 

“The budget envisaged to close the initial voice and service gaps is estimated at Kshs.11.5billion. Closing all the identified voice connectivity gaps in their entirety requires in excess of Kshs.75 billion, while connecting the entire country to broadband would require over Kshs. 250 billion.

CA’s Director General Mr. Francis Wangusi, in a speech read on his behalf by Matano Ndaro, Director Competition Tariffs and Market Analysis,   noted that  the Education Connectivity Broadband project targets to connect all the 8,500 public secondary schools in Kenya to high-speed broadband connectivity over the next five years in order to enhance the delivery of educational content and quality learning using ICT platform.

“This project will spur increased broadband connectivity in all parts of the country including rural areas where the beneficiary schools are located and also greatly improve education through digital learning by enabling access to online content by student and teachers,” Mr Wangusi noted.

Sammy Itemere Principal Secretary ,in  the State Department of Telecommunications and Broadcasting , Ministry of Information and Communications and Technology said the USF projects  were  inspired by the governments  recognition of the potential of ICTs in the realization of the  Government’s Big 4 Agenda, Vision 2030 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“To ensure that ICTs play their rightful role in promoting socio-economic development in the country, the government shall continue making the requisite policy interventions to lower access costs of ICT services,” Mr Itemere said.

The broadband education project is being implemented under a partnership between the Authority and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) who identified the schools.

The criteria used to identify the schools included, connection to the national power grid, a secure computer laboratory with at least 10 modern, working computers.

Other criteria included ICT trained teachers and resource staff and offering computer studies as an examinable subject at the Kenya Certificate of Education (KCSE) level.  

CA awarded contracts to Safaricom and Telkom Kenya to close the voice gaps in 78 sub-locations at a cost of Kshs 1.245 Billion. Among the beneficiary counties in the first and subsequent phases are Turkana, Samburu, West Pokot, Baringo, Marsabit, Isiolo, Wajir, Mandera, Garissa, Tana River, Kwale, Kajiado and Narok.