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Kenya Striving for Cheaper Internet Connectivity

Kenya Striving for Cheaper Internet Connectivity

With internet connectively being costly in a vast majority of African countries, many areas are making strides to lower prices across the board. Kenya in particular, has shifted its focus to local content generation and hosting in attempt to drive down the cost of connectivity, citing that SEACOM and TEAMS fiber optic cables have failed to deliver cost savings as promised.

The nation is hopeful of learning from the mistakes of the West Africa region, which still does not have reasonable internet rates, even though SAT-3 fiber optic connections have been in place for seven years now. Along with regional internet service providers, the government is looking at local content as a way of lowering costs.

The East Africa region is currently leveraging two fiber optic cables connected to Europe as well as national fiber optic backbones and various internet exchange points. Quite a few companies have also extended their networks to support the region. In addition, the Africa Development Bank, the World Bank and several investors from the Middle East have launched new satellites and poured money into the East Africa fiber infrastructure.

Infrastructure is Only One Piece to the Puzzle

Unfortunately, the content being fed through these networks is mainly international, which means the cost of internet connectivity has not changed much at all. Internet service providers in Kenya have come to the realization that infrastructure is merely one equation of connectivity and with no local content, costs will remain high and customers will continue to complain about it.

Joshua Chepkwony, CEO and chairperson at Jamii Telecom, said that Kenya is taking a leadership role in the ICT segment through a partnership with content providers across all major sectors of its economy, the government included, and offering them high quality, cost effective solutions over its infrastructure not only in East Africa, but globally. A major shareholder of TEAMS fiber optic cable, Chepkwony stated that Jamii Telecom is working with the government, media companies, financial and educational institutions to provide content that will enable internet customers to leverage the extended infrastructure.

Kenya Sets the Pace for Local Content Generation

Content generation is being viewed as the key component for driving down internet prices since it will effectively eliminate the costs of internet connectivity. At the same time, the government is being cited as the key factor to encouraging local content generation. It appears is if Kenya has stepped up to lead the charge for local content creation and hosting after numerous complaints of high connectivity costs and accusations of the government just standing by while internet service providers purposely conspired to keep the prices high. The government is maintaining a content generation fund with US $3 million, money it hopes will nurture the local industry.

Ghana is the technology leader of West Africa, but the country is still challenged with finding ways to encourage people to leverage local content as a method of making internet connectivity more affordable. While a number of polices on e-government have been proposed over the years, IT expert Kwaswo Ansah said that the actual implementation has been slow and government websites are far behind in comparison to many other areas of the world. Aside from setting up an internet exchange point, he notes that not much has been done to encourage the development of local content and web hosting solutions.

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