Technology

Weak records on television sets hurt digital drive

ndemo

Information and communications Permanent Secretary Bitange Ndemo at a past function. He said the ministry has presented a memorandum to the Cabinet seeking to have it buy set top boxes and distribute them free of charge. Photo/FILE

Summary

  • Information and Communication PS Bitange Ndemo said the ministry had presented a memorandum to the Cabinet seeking to have it buy set top boxes and distribute them free of charge.
  • Dr Ndemo said it would be difficult to identify people with television sets. Buyers’ records stopped being kept when permits for TVs were withdrawn years back.
  • Dr Ndemo said that December is the deadline for switching from analogue to digital.

Poor records on TV set ownership could stand in the way of Kenyans being supplied with free gadgets to help them migrate from analogue to digital broadcasting signals.

Information and Communication PS Bitange Ndemo said the ministry had presented a memorandum to the Cabinet seeking to have it buy set top boxes and distribute them free of charge.

“We are faced with a super headache of knowing who has a TV. Some people might collect the boxes and sell them in neighbouring countries,” Dr Ndemo told a committee of Parliament.

Were the Cabinet to approve the free distribution of the gadgets, which cost between Sh2,500 and Sh5,000 each, Dr Ndemo said, it would be difficult to identify people with television sets. Buyers’ records stopped being kept when permits for TVs were withdrawn years back.

“The big challenge will be how to identify those with TV sets because they were not registered in the first place,” Dr Ndemo told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chaired by Dr Boni Khalwale, the Ikolomani MP.

Dr Ndemo said a committee had been formed to explore avenues of making the boxes affordable. In the US, the government gives people vouchers with which they get free converters.

Dr Ndemo had appeared before the team to respond to various audit queries raised by the auditor-general with respect to the 2009/2010 financial year.

Dr Ndemo said that the ministry aimed to have 80 per cent of Kenyans connected to the digital signal by December.

“The migration to digital from analogue spectrum has been hampered by the high cost of converter boxes. Digital spectrum has high speed broadband with good signal and more than 600 channels,” he said.

He said that majority of Kenyans could not afford set top boxes even after the Treasury’s exemption of duty on the gadgets.

READ: Digital TV migration costs likely to bar the poor
Dr Ndemo said that the memorandum seeks to have the government buy and distribute the gadgets. The law does not allow the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) which runs Signet, a company distributing digital signals, or the government, to procure the boxes.

‘‘KBC, through Signet, distributes the set boxes freely so long as the beneficiaries subscribe for the digital channels,” said Dr Ndemo.

He said it would take one or two years for prices of the set top boxes to drop to below Sh1,000 even with the massive importation by the government.

He said service providers must ensure that there is a free to air TV channel which does not attract any charges to install.

Dr Ndemo said that December is the deadline for switching from analogue to digital.

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