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Kenya: Seacom Enhancing Internet Penetration in Africa

Access to information technology goes hand in hand with sustainable development. For every 10 percent increase in high-speed internet access, 13 percent of economic growth is realized in developed countries, according to the Head of Sales – East Africa, Seacom Limited, Mr Julius Opio.

Notwithstanding that Internet penetration has grown by 1,980 percent from 2000 to 2010 in Africa, thus having 67 million users, Kenya’s internet penetration is still at 9 percent.

Mr Opio who was presenting during a media workshop at Nairobi said Africa has the lowest internet penetration in the world – 3 for every 100 persons.

However, he said the international broadband has increased from 1.5 to 60 percent in the past 12 months. And, the governments of the East Africa Community (EAC) are investing over US $ 400 million in their respective nation for backbone infrastructure.

Kenya has invested US $ 60 million in the National Optic Fibre Backbone Infrastructure (NOFBI). Some 5,000 km of the fibre optic cable had been laid down by June 2010. In Rwanda 2,300 km; Tanzania, 10,000 km; Burundi, 1,300 km; and Uganda, 2,000 km.

This has translated into informed policy formulation, innovative mobile technologies, such as mobile phone money transfer and expanded ways of learning in Kenya.

The optic fibre cable has brought about communication revolution, thus moving from third generation (3G) to long term evolution (LTE) which is more efficient in the use of spectrum allowing greater bandwidth availability to users.

Before Seacom set its foot in Kenya, 2 years ago, the cost of Internet was about US $ 3,000 per megabit (Mb) on tapping it through satellite services, but the prices have now gone down to US $ 300 per Mb through the fiber optic cable.

Mr Opio explained that the prices are expected to continue decreasing. “Telecommunication operators are passing their investment costs to their customers with their recent retail connectivity dropping by 67 percent while at the same time access speed and user experience has improved ten-fold.”

The Government of Kenya has accelerated internet penetration by anchoring to deliver Millennium Development Goals (MGD) through information communication technology (ICT).

The increase of the broadband is creating employment as Kenyan youths are developing products and marketing them on the world web.

A survey that was carried out show that Kenya with a population of 34 million has a mobile phone penetration of 54 percent or 22 million users.

This has ushered in a digital revolution with more people spending time on line through mobile phones. Thus, Mr Opio said that businesses which do not ride on the digital wave will soon become obsolete.

The optic fibre cable high broad band capacity comes with content management, cloud computing, and business process outsourcing (BPO) as well as e – governance, e – commerce, e – learning and e – health to Kenya and the continent at large.

This will transform the methods of learning, conducting business and bridging the gap in Kenya and across the region – enabling communities to unleash their creative potential and seamlessly integrate them into the information driven global economy.

Mr Opio’s presentation revealed that data revenue has increased to 84 percent as that received from voice data keeps on declining to 24 percent. Seacom is working to become a provider of intelligent applications solutions – apart from their pure capacity as telecommunications operators – to be in resonance with the market needs.

Even though the optic fibre cable network provides high speed and greater broad bandwidth than satellite, Kenya will be harnessing a hybrid of optic fiber cable and wireless internet as 80 percent of the population resides in rural areas, sparsely scattered – making it very expensive to connect them through optic fibre cable. The company challenged all stakeholders to come on board to overcome this hurdle.

Even in urban centres, the upper market are highly connected while highly populated areas, like slums, are yet to start reaping the fruits of the optic fibre cable. Seacom is eyeing new markets in Somalia, Southern Sudan and Burundi.

About Robert Okemwa Onsare

Robert Okemwa Onsare
Robert Onsare is pursuing Electronics Technology at the University of Eastern Africa, Baraton. He is a Cluster Strategy trained facilitator by Kenya's National Economic and Social Council (NESC). Mr Onsare has been an incubation student at the University of Nairobi, School of Engineering, FabLab, a venture project of the university and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He is a member of the African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS) and a published poet. Mr Onsare is based in Kenya.

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