The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) has connected 14 sub-locations to mobile network services in West Pokot County, as it seeks to provide communications services to 101 areas across the country under the Universal Service Fund (USF) to the tune of Kshs. 1.1 billion. Making the announcement, CA Director General Mr. Ezra Chiloba said the 14 sub-locations were among those identified for connectivity in the second phase of the implementation of the USF, a special fund created to provide communications services in various parts of the country, especially in areas which are mostly remote and hard- to-reach.
The authority formally launched the second phase of the USF voice infrastructure connectivity project at Akiriamet, one of the beneficiary sub locations in West Pokot County. Other are: Kases, Kiwawa, Meshau, Lotokum, Kola, Ompolion, Kaptolomwo, Kachawa, Amaler, Emboasis, Kokwoptorir, Marus, and Pkpogoh. It targets to connect 101 sub locations across 19 Counties by June this year, opening up hitherto unconnected areas to a new world of opportunities. “ This project will facilitate residents of the beneficiary sub-locations to enjoy a host of services, including mobile voice, data, Internet and a bouquet of other value-added services, including mobile money transfer services,” said Mr. Chiloba.
The connectivity of 14 sub locations now brings the total sub-locations connected in West Pokot County to 17 after three others, namely, Apuke, Lopet, and Chepserum benefited in the first phase. But the connectivity of the sub locations to mobile network services is not the only work the authority has done in the County. Under the first phase, it connected seven public secondary schools to high speed Internet in the area out of the 884 connected across the country. The schools are : St. Elizabeth Girls Morpus, St. Theresa’s Tartar Girls, Kapenguria Boys, St. Cecilia Chepareria, St. Comboni Amakuriat, Nasokol Girls, and the Holy Cross Boys Secondary School.
According to Mr. Chiloba, the authority faced various challenges in the implementation of the projects, including community resistance and vandalism of the infrastructure in some parts of the country. ”Residents of Akiriamet will no longer have to climb trees to look for a mobile network signal again, because of what we have done here. They can spend that time scouting for market opportunities for their livestock and connecting with their people in the four corners of the world,” he said.
The authority is now in the planning stages of the third phase of the project, which will target 68 sub locations across the country, seven of which are in West Pokot County. West Pokot Governor Prof. John Lonyangapuo lauded the authority’s communications interventions in the area, which he said will go a long way in transforming the lives of the people in profound ways, including tackling insecurity challenges. ”Until the intervention, the residents of these unserved locations have not been able to place or receive a call from their localities, forcing them to walk several kilometres to make or receive calls. This is indeed a stitch in time!” said the Governor.
ICT Cabinet Secretary Mr. Joe Mucheru who graced the occasion said the universal service fund projects were greatly complementing the various initiatives that the government has put in place to narrow the digital divide, lower the costs of communications services and enhance the country’s competitive edge in ICT developments. ”The cost of services can only be reduced if there is a deliberate effort for operators to collaborate in the deployment of infrastructure. When the private sector collaborates on infrastructure sharing, a significant amount of investment costs could be saved and thereby prevent the duplication of similar infrastructure on the same route,” he added.
The Cabinet Secretary challenged the authority to consider implementing other projects to address communications gaps in broadcasting, postal and courier services in rural and other high-cost areas. ”As we develop the telecommunications and Internet services, we need to focus also on these other sub-sectors because they are not only contributing to the kitty , but also the sub-sector provides important services to the communities,” he said.
The USF was established in 2009 to facilitate the widespread availability of communications services in various parts of the country.