The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) will spend millions to build infrastructure to connect remote villages without mobile voice coverage following an order by President Uhuru Kenyatta to surrender unspent billions to the police.
Mr Kenyatta said the authority had nothing to show for the billions of shillings it has collected for a fund established to support infrastructure in remote areas dubbed the Universal Service Fund (USF).
Now, CA has announced plans to spend Sh85 million in connecting 23,000 residents in six sub-locations in Baringo County to mobile voice coverage.
The six-sub locations with zero mobile coverage are part of 22 sub-locations identified to be covered in the first year of the rollout of USF.
The USF is a special kitty created to finance the setting up of information communication and technology services in areas considered too remote for telcos to operate profitably.
All telecommunication firms are supposed to contribute about 0.5 per cent of their turnover to the pool, earnings CA more than Sh1.5 billion annually.
The telcos started contributing the 0.5 per cent of their revenue in July 2015, but Mr Kenyatta say nothing visible has come from the kitty that is also meant to support ICT innovation.
The President ordered Sh1 billion be transferred from the fund to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to deal with cybercrime.
This comes despite data from the International Telecommunications Union showing that more than 10 per cent of Kenya’s population are not covered by mobile phone network.
The share has remained static since 2013, a pointer that operators are keen to upgrade their current coverage zones and not to venture in the remote and unprofitable areas.
“The access to ICT will contribute greatly to the economy through reduced transaction costs, increased efficiency through digitisation of government services and improved living standards,” said Christopher Kemei of the CA.