Fibre connectivity offers a pathway to a more digitally inclusive Kenya

A sign showing Fibre ready zone in Nyeri town. This service enables subscribers access from their homes through fibre provided by Safaricom. FILE PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NMG  

Reliable and secure Internet is a necessity in a rapidly evolving digital world. Fibre technology provides unlimited bandwidth capabilities and faster high-speed connectivity compared to most broadband options.

As such, the increased rollout of fibre is a logical step forward, promising to address existing connectivity gaps and unlock a wealth of new opportunities.

This involves the installation of high-capacity fibre-optic cables directly into residential and commercial buildings.

Without a doubt, the path to a digital future lies in the strategic deployment of fibre infrastructure. This leap in connectivity opens doors for innovation and efficiency in various sectors including health, education, and business.

As we witnessed during and post Covid pandemic, many organisations have had to pivot to remote working, a practice that has now become the norm for many.

This was made possible by fast reliable fibre connectivity, which kept Kenyans connected with their friends and family, while thousands of businesses were able to continue operating.

According to the 2019 census, there are over 12 million homes in Kenya, and as of December 2021, approximately 8.6 million households were connected to electricity.

Currently, all fixed Internet providers have covered just over 1.5 million homes demonstrating the huge opportunity available.

This has seen the emergence of alternative solutions utilising 4G, 5G and satellites, to connect homes and businesses in uncovered areas.

Transitioning to a fibre-connected future will require concerted efforts from both the public and private sectors. Safaricom, the leader in this space, has laid over 14,000km of fibre across the country, passing more than 465,000 homes and connecting more than 300,000 homes and businesses.

To further increase coverage, Safaricom is also collaborating with Kenya Power by sharing infrastructure, with a view of reaching approximately 100,000 new homes every year. Undoubtedly, more investments are needed if we are to realise the Kenya Digital Superhighway Project, which seeks to expand the country’s fibre network coverage countrywide by laying 100,000km of fibre optic cable.

This will ensure that the country’s entire population has access to connectivity and digital services.

The government must thus provide policies that foster a conducive environment for digital infrastructure investments.

Frequent disruptions resulting from fibre cuts following road and sewer line construction as well as vandalism continue to pose a challenge to fibre reliability. As such, there is a need for fibre infrastructure to be classified as critical infrastructure and impose punitive penalties against vandalism.

Moreover, there is also an opportunity for county governments to harmonise wayleave tariffs and processes, to ensure seamless rollout across the country.

Furthermore, the challenge of extending the network through private development as well as the lack of ducts and pathways for fibre in buildings also continue to compromise the rollout of fibre.

Bridging the digital divide is not only about deploying infrastructure but also making it accessible to all segments of society.

For instance, outreach initiatives and partnerships with community organisations could play a pivotal role in ensuring that even marginalised populations can access secure fibre Internet. This creates an opportunity to develop solutions that can offer worry-free broadband access.

The path to digitising Kenya through secure fibre Internet is not without its challenges. Infrastructure investment requires capital and realising its benefits often takes time. Nevertheless, this journey must be viewed as a long-term investment in the country’s progress.

The benefits of secure, high-speed connectivity will undoubtedly transcend the initial challenges and eventually spark innovation, economic growth, and transform the lives of all citizens.

As we stand at the crossroads of possibility, the need to accelerate investments in fibre is about investing in dreams, aspirations, and the limitless potential of a digitally connected Kenya.

The strategic deployment of fibre is poised to reshape Kenya's landscape, driving connectivity into all communities, and propelling the nation towards a more prosperous and inclusive future.

Fawzia Ali is the Chief Consumer Business Officer at Safaricom PLC.

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