Kenya starts rollout of 25,000 free Wi-Fi hotspots to markets

ICT Secretary Eliud Owalo (left) with Dagorretti South MP John Kiarie and other government officials at City Market, Nairobi to launch a free internet WiFi Hotspot at to facilitate digital commerce on November 9, 2022. PHOTO | LUCY WANJIRU | NMG

The government has unveiled a pilot internet hotspot at the popular City Market in the Nairobi central business district that will see traders leverage free WiFi to grow their businesses.

This is the first of 25,000 similar installations that the State plans to roll out countrywide.

“In our Kenya Kwanza plan during the campaigns, we did say that one of our areas of focus is the digital superhighway and that’s exactly what we are doing here today. We are taking the internet to the people. From here we will be launching similar programmes in other trade centres so that we can facilitate e-commerce,” ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo said when he presided over the launch of the City Market hotspot on Wednesday.

“We are ready as a ministry, apart from bringing internet here, to also ensure that those who have got challenges in skills are well trained so that there is optimal uptake of the technology,” he added.

The CS further committed to working with Parliament to review policies and laws as the need will arise in the course of deploying select technology interventions.

The Information and Communication Technology Authority chief executive officer Stanley Kamanguya said that the authority has been charged with the responsibility to lay down infrastructure, noting that the greatest challenge to the service uptake has been the cost implication.

“The country is currently connected to six submarine cables that connect Kenya to the rest of the world and inside the country, we have built over nine thousand kilometres of fiber optic cable. We have connected over 1,600 government institutions across the country,” he said.

President William Ruto during his Mashujaa Day national address announced plans to lay an additional 100,000 kilometres of national fiber optic in the course of his five-year term in efforts aimed at speeding up internet connectivity across the country.

“Over the next five years, the Government will ensure universal broadband availability by hastening the roll-out of connectivity throughout the country. The laying out of an additional 100,000km of the national fiber-optic network is expected to deliver this target,” said Dr Ruto.

In 2020, the government commissioned the 630km Eldoret-Nakodok fiber optic cable which was a Sh3 billion joint project between the government of Kenya and the World Bank. The high-speed optic cable was projected to serve users along the corridor with internet speeds of up to 100 gigabytes.

A Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) survey shows that 3G broadband subscriptions for the year ending June 2022 hit 11.7 million with 73.1 million gigabytes of data volume consumed while 4G subscriptions stood at 17.6 million with 208.1 gigabytes of data volume consumed.

In the past decade, Kenya has made remarkable strides in ICT infrastructure, consequently cementing its status as one of the leading tech hubs in the region.

Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics shows that value addition in the ICT sector stood at Sh294 billion in 2021, registering a 30 percent rise from Sh223 billion in 2017.

The Kenya National Digital Master plan 2022-32 targets spending Sh585 billion in the sector over the next 10 years.

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