Family Bank to disburse loans for digital villages

The government aims to address the disparity in accessing ICT facilities like the Internet, which remains an urban phenomenon. Fredrick Onyango

The government has picked Family Bank to disburse a Sh800 million World Bank loan to investors seeking to set up information communication centres.

The government, through the ICT board which is implementing the project, said the money — which will be between Sh300 and Sh1 million per business— will be available from February.

The funds were released in July, but rollout was pushed back to get a financial institution to manage the project aimed at addressing the disparity in accessing ICT facilities like the Internet, which remains an urban phenomenon.

The Kenya ICT board chairman Paul Kukubo said the government has also opened the loans to all entrepreneurs wishing to invest in such centres, moving away from the initial requirement that restricted the beneficiaries of these funds to those who had undergone an entrepreneurial training organised by the government three years ago.

“The pressure to roll out this project is just too much and we cannot go any longer than two months from now,” said Mr Kukubo. “We have identified a financial institution that will disburse the money and also made it open to any entrepreneur willing to invest in this area.”
But he noted that those who had undergone the government training and still willing to pursue the projects will be given first priority.

The digital villages, to be known as “Pasha” centres (pasha is Kiswahili for inform), will be equipped with Internet-connected computers and managed under the Kenya Transparency Communication Infrastructure Project.

The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), the telecoms industry watchdog, figures show that 90 per cent of the 6.4 million Internet users are in Nairobi and Mombasa.

Pasha centres are seen as avenue of bridging the digital divide in the country. Since its launch, the Kenya ICT Board has only established six such centres in Kangundo, Malindi, Mukuru Kayiaba in Nairobi, Kacheliba, Meru, and Garissa. The digital centres are critical to the government in employment creation and use the platforms in boosting its e-programmes that aim at improving service delivery.

The centres will provide a suite of services via the Internet, digital cameras, printers, fax machines and other communication infrastructure.

Users will access government services such as NSSF statements and driving licence application forms, among other benefits, as e-programmes reduce tedious document procurement process that is also prone to abuse.

With only five per cent of Kenyans hooked to high speed Internet access by late last year. the data segment offers huge potential for the entrepreneurs.

The entrepreneurs will each have to come up with their own business model that they think is commercially feasible and sustainable.

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