One of the most important developments that have taken place in Kenya in the last two decades is the soaring growth of internet connections in the country.
Statistics from the sector regulator, Communication Authority (CA) shows that there were 44.4 million data/internet subscriptions during the second quarter of the 2020/2021 financial year.
Internet has become a major driver of economic activities in Kenya. It’s hard to imagine that the internet was hardly existent in Kenya barely a decade ago, with connections few and far between.
Today, it is impossible to think of life without the internet.
CA reports that internet usage is expected to continue “evolving rapidly,” with increasing innovation in technology, availability of more affordable smartphones in the market, and enhanced connectivity in the country.
The journey to near universal access to broadband in Kenya begun in when the Government decided to end the country’s dependence on outsourced satellite services, which are unreliable and prohibitively expensive, in favor of undersea fibre optic cables.
The laying of the cables was the first tier of the development of the infrastructure that would establish the foundation of booming internet growth in Kenya. The first two undersea cables, The Seacom and East African Cable Marine System (TEAMS), landed at the coast of Mombasa in 2009.
They were followed by the East African Submarine Cable System (EASsy), LION2, and lastly DARE 1. These cables have completely revolutionized the delivery of broadband in Kenya.
The landing of the optic cables enabled the 2nd tier development to take place, that of massive investments in network upgrades by the key internet services providers. These providers, who include the likes of Safaricom, Telkom and Jamii Telecom, made major investments in network upgrades.
With this infrastructure in place, the Government then launched an ambitious plan for making Kenya a knowledge economy through the National Broadband Strategy (NBS) 2023. A knowledge economy is one based on a country’s capacity to commercialize its scientific discoveries and research, with intellectual capital as its basis.
Through the implementation of the NBS 2023, the Government aims at increasing access to broadband coverage of 3G to 94 per cent of the population, increase digital literacy in schools to 85 per cent, expand broadband to the 47 counties, and achieve 50 per cent digital literacy amongst the workforce.
The NBS has an elaborate workplan for developing broadband access to counties. All 47 counties now have ICT roadmaps that align with the National ICT Masterplan, and local county development plans (CDPs). Through the roadmaps, counties can provide the best, most-cost effective ICT enabled services and resources to their residents.
In a demonstration of its commitment to develop the ICT sector, the Government in 2016 split the Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs to create the State Department of ICT and Innovation. This move was to harness energy, focus and mobilize resources both locally and internationally, towards development of connectivity in Kenya.
“We have come a long way, and we are satisfied by the progress so far,” says the Principal Secretary, ICT and Innovation, Mr Jerome Ochieng. “However, we cannot afford to rest on our laurels, as we aim to make Kenya the top ranking country in ICT and innovation globally,” he adds.
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