Residents of Kiambu County in Kenya will in coming weeks enjoy free, fast and reliable public Wi-Fi connections, following a partnership with Africa’s leading data, voice and IP provider, Liquid Telecom Kenya. The delivery of free street Wi-Fi zones in Kiambu will enable rapid access to information vital for economic and educational development in the county.
The high capacity Wi-Fi networks in Kiambu County cover a 5km radius from the Central Business Districts (CBDs) of each of the county’s four largest towns, with a capacity of 10 Megabytes per second(Mbps). The county government has decided on the first four hotspots, in each of the towns, to be at the bus stage, main hospital, main market and the county government headquarters.
Kiambu County Governor William Kabogo explained that the Wi-Fi hotspots will help county residents get access to the information required for services such as applications for business permits among other services.
“The Wi-Fi initiative is driven by the county’s mission to better use technology to improve service delivery for all Kiambu County residents,” said the governor.
Kiambu County ICT Director Douglas Njiraini said the Kiambu Wi-Fi connection will be rolled out in phases, with the first phase being installations in Thika, Kikuyu, Ruiru and Kiambu towns.
“It is not just people in hospitals that will have access to the internet, but businesses and offices around the point of connections will also benefit. These locations were chosen because they have the highest number of human traffic, highest concentration of businesses and offices, and thus they are expected to have the most impact,” he said.
The first of the new Wi-Fi installations will be at Thika bus stop and the level 5 hospital; at the Ruiru sub-county hospital and bus stop; in Kiambu town, near Kiambu hospital; and in Kikuyu; at the sub county offices, main stage, market and at Alliance bus stop to serve the main Kikuyu Mission Hospital, two universities, one college and 15 schools.
The rest of the county’s remaining sub-counties, Limuru, Kabete Lari, Gatundu South, Gatundu North, Githunguri, Kiambaa, and Juja, will be connected in the second phase.
Njiraini explained that the Wi-Fi hotspots will help county residents get access to the information required for services such as applications for business permits, with the Wi-Fi initiative driven by the county’s mission to better use technology to improve service delivery.
“The aim of this project is to promote the use of ICT among the people of Kiambu, encourage innovation, and bring services closer to the people, by improving service delivery through the Digitika Portal,” he said.
The Digitika Portal enables residents to log in and request services from the county as well as make online payments using MPESA, Airtel Money, Visa or MasterCard.
The Head of Government Affairs at Liquid Telecom Kenya, William Oungo, said affordable internet access should be seen as a basic need , necessary for the public to access information, adding that unemployed youths are locked out of accessing the internet because of lack of disposable income to purchase data bundles.
The free hotspots now being set up in Kiambu are using the same technology as has been deployed in Nakuru for the Bilawaya project, initiated by the President’s Office and implemented in partnership with Nakuru county and Liquid Telecom Kenya.
The Bilawaya project won the ‘Best Wi-Fi Deployment to Connect the Unconnected in Rural Environment’ award during the World Wi-Fi Day Awards held in Liverpool, in England, last month.
With high capacity free Wi-Fi in the county, there is expected to be an increased uptake of e-learning by colleges and universities within Kiambu. Youths will, in addition, be able to seek employment, venture into economic activities such as e-commerce, as well as access many services offered by both national and county governments that can provide them with incomes. Residents will also be empowered to participate in the formulation of policies.
Research shows there is a direct correlation between internet access and economic growth, with World Bank statistics showing that a 10 per cent increase in Internet access results in approximately 1 per cent of extra growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per year.
Internet access has been widely tipped to be the key differentiator in Kenya’s economic performance, creating at least 1,000 jobs a month in the business process outsourcing sector since 2013, according to the ICT Authority of Kenya.
“Free Wi-Fi is a facility that is gaining traction globally. And it is time for Kenya to be on the same level of technological advancement as other countries in the world. It is for this reason that we at Liquid Telecom Kenya are committed to ensuring every Kenyan has access to the Internet as we aim to provide free Wi-Fi across all towns in the country,” said Oungo.