Free Wi-Fi hotspots continue to make their mark across Kenya
Kenya has long recognised that the future of its economy is digital. And what better way to encourage its citizens to explore digital innovation than by offering them free Wi-Fi hotspots?
Kenya is one of only three African countries with a government initiative to introduce free Wi-Fi initiatives to underserved areas. Liquid Telecom Kenya has been working alongside the Kenyan Government to introduce Wi-Fi networks to underserved towns up and down the nation. The first such initiative of its kind in the country was launched in Nakuru County last year.
Nakuru is a small market town with a population of 307,000, where farming is the main industry and unemployment is high. Deploying a Wi-Fi network that stretched a 10km radius, Liquid Telecom Kenya and the County of Government of Nakuru were able to connect major streets, markets, transport terminus and stadia – as well as a university campus.
It is safe to say the initiative has been a huge success. Attracting up to 30,000 unique users a day, it was recognised as Best Wi-Fi Deployment to Connect the Unconnected in a Rural Environment at the World Wi-Fi Day Awards in June.
And now a similar project is being rolled out across Kiambu County. Over the coming weeks, Wi-Fi networks will be established in the Central Business Districts of each of the county's four largest towns, offering residents internet speeds of up to 10 megabytes per second.
The first phase of installations will begin in the towns of Thika, Kikuyu, Ruiru and Kiambu, where hotspots will strategically connect hospitals, universities and schools. “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,” says Kiambu County ICT Director Douglas Njiraini. “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.”
A second phase of the project will see a further seven towns connected with free Wi-Fi, enabling more of the county's residents to access online services and information.
Why free Wi-Fi is so good for Kenya:
- Research shows there is a direct correlation between internet access and economic growth, with World Bank statistics showing that a 10% increase in Internet access results in approximately 1% 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.
- Kenya's Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) is currently working on a comprehensive new ICT draft policy, which promises to further position Kenya as one of Africa's leading ICT and economic hubs. The proposals focus on a range of areas, including availability and affordability of devices, as well as best practices in incorporating the use of internet services.