For the Kenyan government to achieve its mission to deepen internet connectivity countrywide, it will have to ramp up the scale of the national fiber-optic network.
Technology experts attending this year’s edition of the Connected Kenya Conference surmised that the additional fiber internet connectivity will be a major component of the country’s digital ecosystem, noting that it will be an important hurdle to cross if the country is to achieve the modest ambition of connecting at least 1 million students to the Internet.
Speaking for Huawei, the firm’s Director for Enterprise Business, Steve Kamuya, explained that it would partner with the ICT Authority to enable broadband access in those facilities by starting with laying at least 25,000km of fiber backbone and metro around the country and installing an additional 18,000km fiber for last-mile of internet connectivity as part of a broader plan to deliver last-mile Internet connectivity around the country.
The mission, he added, is important as providing internet connectivity in schools benefits the students, teachers, and even the general public who can use it for business and other special needs. Therefore, it is important to provide them with sufficient speeds and good wi-fi coverage across the entire national school network.
“Accelerating ICT infrastructure construction is critical for ensuring universal access to all. Huawei has and will continue to collaborate with our customers and partners in delivering cutting edge solutions in support of implementing the National Broadband Strategy for ensuring internet connectivity to all and affordable access to digital services,” he said.
Maureen Mwaniki, the Vice Director for the Programs Management Office explained that in rolling out various training programs across the country, the firm had established a large gap in digital literacy between various parts of Kenya.
“For this gap to be reduced remarkably, we will need to structure the national Internet connectivity infrastructure to reach the unserved and underserved areas while at the same time providing working devices with reliable content,” she said pointing out that a large part of the neglected population if high school students, who in many cases, graduate without ever seen a computer or know how one works. A national digital literacy effort, she added, will also work if it’s contextualized to individuals’ requirements and situations, staying alive to the different levels of students have exposure.
According to Kamuya, the time was ripe for industry players to reconsider the constitution of ICT infrastructure, saying that they all need to view last-mile devices including computers, phones, and tablets as finer components of the country’s ICT infrastructure.
“Computers are important in public offices and schools where phones and tablets may not be sufficiently available as they can be easily be used as virtual desktops to communicate and to store data, with the possibility of being run remotely from local data centers,” he added.
Other forms of infrastructure that will be necessary for the education sector, in particular, to make the most of Kenya’s imminent broadband infrastructure include intelligent transport facilities, smart lighting, and electrical equipment, which will be useful in smart city environments.
Noting that Huawei was excited by the government’s commitment to deepening the reach of fiber-optic internet connectivity countrywide, Kamiya explained that the expansion will enhance Internet use, increase the level of wi-fi access, and therefore have a real impact beyond education to include other sectors such as health and agriculture.
Dr. Bitange Ndemo, a Professor of Entrepreneurship at the School of Business at the University of Nairobi explained that for Kenya to make progress in achieving a sizeable measure of digital inclusivity, the acceleration of its national ICT infrastructure was inevitable. “The whole world is moving into the digital space faster than we can even run, so we must make haste with our implementation,” he noted.