Obulala an Amani  

Korogocho slum gest 1st digital village

By our correspondent, July 19 2008
The first model digital village was launched on Friday at a Nairobi slum setting in motion an initiative to replicate the trend countrywide. The project, launched at Altaawon community based youth organisation at Korogocho slums, is part of a larger Sh210 million project to enable e-learning in slum areas. The project was initiated at a cost of Sh300,000 and aims among other things, at creating employment for the youth through making it a self-sustaining business. “We want to speed up the development of these areas, leap frog the digital divide through provision of affordable and reliable internet connections to enable the entrenchment of an online culture,” said Kenya Data Network chief operating officer, Mr David Owino. ICT village.com was also involved in the project. A digital village is a room that could be anything from a container to an office block, where technology is made available to people who do not have access to electricity and fibre optic. The government has been in the forefront of rolling out the services in rural areas and has also promised to provide infrastructure so that entrepreneurs can take it up as an investment. The digital village project across the country kicked off last year with the Kenya ICT Board calling for applications from entrepreneurs wishing to run digital villages to apply for training support. This marked phase 1 of the Digital Villages project. Mr Owino said that his firm would establish similar centres in Kenya to be linked to the internet at high speed broadband carried by fibre optic cables. Source: Nation Media

Tanzania pips Kenya in world ICT ranking

By Alari Alare, Nairobi August 6 2007
The World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology report has slotted Kenya in the 12th position for her efforts in developing information and communication technology (ICT) sector. According to the report, Tanzania is ranked 11th, and Uganda 14th. The research, conducted in 122 countries, showed that Kenya managed a Networked Readiness Index (NRI) score of 3.07, while Tanzania and Uganda scored 3.13 and 2.97 respectively.

The report says that Kenya needs to step up ICT development by making it a pillar for economic development. It says high bandwidth costs and delays in voice calls were denying the country business outsourcing revenue. However, it is anticipated that the installation of an undersea fibre optic cable, The East African Marine Systems (TEAMS), will increase the speed and reduce charges for local and international voice and data traffic.

NRI measures the ability of countries to leverage the opportunities offered by ICT for development and increased competitiveness. Tunisia, ranked 35th globally, leads African countries with a rating of 4.24.= = Source: The Standard


Digital Villages within 100 days

By Justus Ondari, July 31 2007

Information and Communication permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo during the briefing. Photo/ CHRIS OJOW
Several communication firms will jointly set up hubs in villages around the country, in project meant to close the huge gap in Internet access between rural and urban areas. In the first phase of the programme, Telkom Kenya, Kenya Data Network and Popote Wireless will each establish digital villages in 54 constituencies under an initiative that aims to cover the remaining 156 constituencies by December this year.

The Government will subsidise broadband access for the villages under a Sh670 million World Bank loan, that seeks to stimulate demand for broadband uptake over a three year period. Entrepreneurs will get credit through the Youth Fund to buy the locally assembled computers going for an average of Sh25,000 a piece. The initiative, known as Rural Digital Village “Marshall Plan”, also aims to rope in mobile service providers, Safaricom and Celtel Kenya. 

The two have already agreed, in principal, to take part in the first phase of the programme, said Mr Peter Kimacia, one of the coordinators of the initiative. Mr Kimacia is the chief executive of ICTvillage.com, an industry-driven Web site and business lobby that aims to make Kenya the information and communication technology (ICT) hub of Africa. “At the end of Phase Two of the initiative in December 2008, each of the telecommunications service providers will have at least a digital village in all the 210 constituencies in the country,” he said.  He was speaking at the Nairobi Serena Hotel during the launch of the initiative. 

Launching the concept, Information and Communications permanent secretary, Bitange Ndemo said each of the constituencies will have a digital centre, two digital schools, and four digital kiosks within the next 100 days under what he called a “Rapid Results Response”. A digital centre will have between 10 and 20 computers, while a digital school will have five to 10 computers, and a digital kiosk one to five computers. 

Also present at the launch were Information and Communication Assistant minister David Were and permanent secretaries David Nalo (Trade and Industry), and Kinuthia Murugu (Youth Affairs). The programme will be overseen by the newly appointed Kenya Information and Communication Technology Board chaired by Ms Catherine Ngahu, and managing director, Paul Kokubo of 3Mice Interactive Media Limited. 

The villages will offer services like data collection, cyber cafes, training and merchandising. Other services are business outsourcing, franchising and bureau services.

Source: Nation Media


Fibre-optic cable may create bandwidth ‘glut’

London, Wednesday July 11 2007
There is growing concern among western telecommunication experts that the planned marine-based fibre-optic cable link could come at a high price to the service provider. Despite the latest news carried in the Daily Nation’s sister paper, The East African this week — that the Government had turned down a proposal by the US company Seacom for a joint venture in the regional project — there remains four groups bidding to participate.

East Africa is the only region in the world not yet connected to the global broadband network, and hence Internet connection in the region is notoriously poor. But the respected Financial Times newspaper, in a special report on the issue, said that in the medium to long term, the establishment of a fibre optic cable could bring problems for an eventual provider.

“Some prospective investors worry that East Africa could swing from being starved of bandwidth to having a glut,” the FT report says. “Seacom alone is expected to add 640 gigabites of bandwidth, yet Kenya today uses a mere 1.2 gigabites. “Sceptics say the African projects risk repeating errors made during the Internet bubble (in the UK), when over capacity and intense price competition forced several groups with rival transatlantic cables into bankruptcy.”

Seacom has said its cable will be operational by 2009 while the Kenyan government says that its shorter cable will be completed by the middle of next year. The East African report says that the US company is ahead of all the others, having signed an engineering procurement contract.  If they are the first providers of broadband to Kenya they are likely to have a distinct advantage, making it difficult for other companies to compete. === Source: Nation Media



eVillages planned in every constituency

Nairobi, 5 July 2007
Plans are afoot to establish digital villages in all constituencies. Information assistant minister Koigi wa Wamwere made the disclosure as he unsuccessfully urged Alego/Usonga MP Sammy Weya (Narc) to withdraw a motion asking the Government to set up a universal fund for the promotion of information and communication technology (ICT). Mr Wamwere said the ministry had already prepared a Bill for promotion of ICT in the country and intends to table it in the House before the end of the week.

“The issues that are being raised by the honourable member have been addressed in our Bill. “In addition to establishing a fund, we also propose to set up a digital village in each constituency. The ministry will bring this Bill before the end of the week,” he said. However, Mr Weya declined the request and the 11 MPs who were in the House passed the motion.

Keiyo South MP Nicholas Biwott (Kanu) said the ministry should have moved fast and spoken to the mover of the motion before it was taken to the House. “But as things stand now, the motion is the property of the House and we have to debate it. After it has been passed, that is the only time it can be harmonised with the Government Bill,” he said.

Mr Biwott said the future will entirely be determined by ICT and urged the Government to speed up the process of rural electrification to pave the way for use of computers.  Housing minister Soita Shitanda said the use of ICT should start with MPs, the majority of whom did not know how to use a computer. Mr Wamwere and Mr Weya argued over the ownership of Safaricom Ltd with the latter stating that it was run by multinationals. Mr Wamwere maintained that Safaricom Ltd was a Kenyan company in which the public owned 60 per cent through Telkom.

“The assistant minister knows very well that Safaricom is run by multinationals. Vodafone is a multinational,” asserted Mr Weya. But Mr Wamwere said: “The issue at hand is who the majority shareholder in Safaricom is. It is Kenyans through Telkom who own 60 per cent.” Mr Weya asked the Government to supply computers to all schools in the country and install some at market centres countrywide. The motion on ICT Bill was passed at 11.30am by 11 members – four on the Government side and seven on the Opposition side. - source: Nation Media


Players in fibre optic project meet on July 4

Nairobi, June 27 2007

Stakeholders in The East Africa Marine System (TEAMS) project will meet on Wednesday next week to discuss the shareholding structure. The project seeks to boost the region’s communications infrastructure by laying a fibre optic cable link from Fujairah in the Gulf of Oman to Mombasa. Communication Permanent Secretary, Bitange Ndemo said the process to identify shareholders will begin next week. Standard Chartered Bank, which was picked as the lead advisor in the deal, signed the agreement documents at the Kenya College of Communications Technology (KCCT) on Wednesday.

The Government will own a 40 per cent stake in the venture, while Etisalat of the United Arab Emirates will take up 20 per cent stake. The other 40 per cent is expected to go to regional telecommunications companies, Internet service providers (ISPs) and governments in the region. Dr Ndemo refuted Tuesday reports that the Government was in dispute with Etisalat over the shareholding structure, with Etisalat insisting on owning a 40 per cent stake. 

Finance minister, Amos Kimunya allocated Sh1 billion in this year’s budget for the TEAMS project. The PS also said $300 million had been set aside to train1,000 people on entrepreneurship and computers to open up digital villages in the rural areas. Once operational, Dr Ndemo said, the digital centres would offer services like collecting data and monitoring the Constituency Development Fund among other services.

Safaricom has expressed interest in using the centres for its M-Pesa money transfer service, while Telkom want to offer them franchises. Others are Celtel for its Sokotele, and several banks involved in money transfer services.  

Source: Nation Media



Microsoft partners with state in e-learning

By James Ratemo, Nairobi, Tuesday, May 15 2007
Microsoft has partnered with the Government in the provision of computer technology to teachers, students and digital villages. The programme is aimed at strengthening learning opportunities and capacity to meet future technological challenges. It is also intended to popularise the ues of computers among Kenyans of all ages. Speaking on Tuesday, the Ministry of Information and Communication PS, Dr Bitange Ndemo, said the programme will contribute to the realisation of the National ICT Policy, to boost digital literacy and adoption of affordable IT tools in urban and rural populations.

Microsoft East and Southern Africa General Manager, Mr Thapelo Lippe, said his firm will facilitate a hire purchase system to help students and teachers buy computers. Lippe said Microsoft will offer e-learning software to aid teachers and students access IT faster and efficiently, stressing on the need for a strong Government-private sector partnership for sustainable growth of IT. Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology Vice Chancellor, Professor Nick Wanjohi said public universities needed financial and hardware support to back the programme. JKUAT assembles 500 computers monthly.
Source: The Standard


World Bank okays Sh8 billion for Internet

By John Oyuke And Reuters
Nairobi, Thursday 5 April 2007
The World Bank has approved $165 million (Sh12 billion) in financing for Kenya, Burundi and Madagascar for high-speed Internet connections.
Kenya is the largest beneficiary, getting about Sh8 billion under the proposed Regional Communications Infrastructure Programme for East and Southern Africa. The region is the only place in the world not connected to the global broadband infrastructure, making telephone calls and Internet access very expensive, the bank said in a statement.
"The focus is on closing the terrestrial connectivity gap, extending geographic reach of broadband networks and contributing to lower prices for international capacity."
Other beneficiaries of the programme are Madagascar ($30 million) and Burundi ($20 million).
The Bank stated that the region is also the only one that still relies mostly on expensive and poor quality satellite infrastructure with costs ranking amongst the highest in the world. It estimates that the region’s international wholesale bandwidth prices are 20 to 40 times higher than those in the United States.
"Businesses are unable to compete in the global economy, university students suffer because they cannot access the Internet, and government agencies cannot communicate effectively with each other and their citizens because they are not connected," the bank’s statement said.
The bank cited one Kenyan call-centre entrepreneur who has to pay $17,000 (Sh1.2 million) per month for 25 agents to make calls from the country compared to costs of only $600-900 (Sh42,000 to Sh63,000) paid by other call centres elsewhere in the world.
The Bank expects the programme to help boost private sector investment in partnership with the public sector. This, it added, would be done with competitive award of subsidies, if required, to extend the telecommunications and Information and Communications Technology infrastructure in rural areas.
The funds would also support the connection of main towns of all participating countries with each other in preparation for the expected rollout of sub-marine cables. The three countries receiving funds under the RCIP are part of a wider regional initiative by over 20 nations to lay an undersea fibre-optic cable linking South Africa and Sudan.