The government has released Sh320 million for set up of digital centres in Kenya, a move aimed at creating new business opportunities and boost Internet access in rural areas.
Investors seeking loans will be required to submit a business plan and have until February 25 to apply for the funds.
The money will be disbursed through Family Bank. An investor can borrow from Sh820,000 to Sh3.3 million repayable with an annual interest rate of 11.5 per cent in three years.
Information permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo told investors to apply for the loans through Family Bank.
“Some people have been seeking favours from the MPs with regard to the loans, but this is not going to work since the procedure is that one must go through the bank.”
This comes weeks after a funding glitch hit the model digital centres, threatening five pilot centres started three years ago in Malindi, Meru, Kangundo, Garissa and Mukuru slums in Nairobi.
Nairobi and Mombasa account for 90 per cent of the 6.4 million people who have Internet access, according to data from the Communications Commission of Kenya and the creation of the digital villages —Pasha centres — is meant to expand the Net’s reach.
The centres, most of which will be in the rural areas, will be used for Government e-services, Internet access, computer training, vocational lessons, ICT retail, entertainment and gaming, typing and data entry, printing services, copying and scanning.
With only five per cent of Kenyans hooked to high speed Internet access by late last year, the data segment offers a huge business potential for investors.
The digital centres open investment opportunities in agriculture through the sharing of information, online payment systems such as for pensioners or co-operatives, printing and scanning CD/DVD burning, faxing, IP telephony, cell phones and SIM card sales, mobile-based financial services, IT support and services, printer supplies, laminating and photography and other IT enabled services.
The pasha centres are modelled on three categories — basic, standard, and advanced — each of which is defined by the number of computers in use and services to be offered and the scale of the centre proposed by the applicants.
The funds were released in July, but the roll-out was pushed back as the Government sought a financial institution to manage the project aimed at addressing the disparity in accessing ICT facilities like the Internet.
The Kenya ICT board chairman, Mr Paul Kukubo, said the government had opened the loans to all entrepreneurs interested in investing in IT, as opposed to an earlier proposal that had made it a requirement that all applicants must have been trained by the Government in entrepreneurship.
Users will access government services such as National Social Security Fund statements and driving licence application forms, among other benefits, as e-programmes reduce tedious document procurement processes that are also prone to abuse.
The entrepreneurs will each have to come up with a commercially feasible and sustainable business model.