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HomeAfricaGovernment Launches Massive Free Public Wi-Fi Rollout

Government Launches Massive Free Public Wi-Fi Rollout


Stakeholders have welcomed the digital initiative by the government to roll out over 25,000 free public Wi-Fi hotspots across the country.

The government, through the ICT Authority, is implementing free Wi-Fi internet connections in public spaces as part of the digital acceleration programme to extend the internet to remote areas.

The government also seeks to roll out 1450 digital hubs dubbed ‘Jitume’ and harness skills in a bid to create over one million online jobs for the country’s youth.

The government hopes the Jitume digital hubs will promote digital literacy, increase employability among the youth and contribute to a more inclusive and equitable society.

Stakeholders say the fresh efforts to bridge the gap in internet network connectivity will narrow the digital divide.

Cabinet Secretary (CS), Ministry of Information, Communication and the Digital Economy Eliud Owalo said he is committed to the scaling of infrastructure for the foundations of widespread public Wi-Fi hotspots.

CS Owalo, who was on a development tour of Mombasa and Kwale counties, said Kenyans should expect a strong and reliable public Wi-Fi network infrastructure throughout the country.

While inaugurating public Wi-Fi projects, Owalo said the government is trying to give visibility to innovators, micro, small and medium enterprises so that their market is not going to be narrowed and restricted only to local communities.

He said the bold plans to boost internet digital access across the country will improve connectivity for people and businesses.

“Public Wi-Fi in spaces like markets, bus and railway stations, tertiary institutions and public parks can serve as a catalyst to improve the economy in many ways,” he said, adding that the free Wi-Fi will shape the country’s digital future.

“The free Wi-Fi is aimed at providing citizens with basic access to the internet to empower and develop themselves and their businesses,” added the CS.

Owalo said the government is working closely with global tech giants to assemble and manufacture low-cost smartphones in the country to enhance mobile phone connectivity.

“The low-cost mobile phone device will ensure ordinary Kenyans have digital access to government services and business platforms,” said Owalo.

He said the government hopes that providing free internet service will, in the long run, boost connectivity and reduce the cost of internet access.

“The free Wi-Fi hotspots will enable more Kenyans to benefit from the opportunities the web has to offer,” he said, adding that the government is determined to include everyone in the digital economy with the provision of internet.

Owalo said the free broadband internet connectivity will make it easier for the public to access and apply for government e-services.

He said the proliferation of public Wi-Fi projects across the 47 counties will unleash an internet revolution in the country and empower ordinary citizens.

He said the public Wi-Fi project comes at a time when over 5,000 government services are now available online on e-citizen platform.

The ICT Minister said the large-scale free Wi-Fi hotspots will benefit all and sundry, especially operators in the small business sector.

Owalo said communications are the lifeblood of an e-commerce economy and digital communications are increasingly central to that.

He said the benefits of creating a fully digital society with free internet access completely outweigh the costs of implementing the internet infrastructure project.

Owalo reiterated the government’s commitment to enhancing digital skills to empower Wananchi to develop and utilise digital solutions to address socio-economic challenges.

ICT Authority Board Chairman Sylvanus Maritim said the public Wi-Fi has the potential to penetrate and provide last-mile connectivity to every corner of the country.

Maritim said the ICT Authority is leveraging the national fibre optic infrastructure to support the free internet infrastructure services.

He said the spread of the national fibre optic network and the rise of the internet would make the public Wi-Fi infrastructure available to every citizen of the country.

Mohamud Noor, the Director of Swahilipot hub in Mombasa welcomed efforts to connect public places with high speed WIFI hotspots.

“We have laid out the framework for a widely accessible, available and reliable public wireless network throughout Kenya,” he said.

Maritim said while fibre is one of the fastest-growing connection types, it is still constrained to urban areas and revealed plans to deploy 100,000 kilometres of fibre optic infrastructure across the country to enable Kenyans to benefit from the digital revolution.

He said even inaccessible communities would be connected to high-speed broadband, enabling them to stay connected wherever they are.

Mohamud Noor, the Director of Swahilipot Hub, has welcomed the move to connect public places with high-speed internet.

Swahilipot Hub is an innovation and technology hub that serves as a community-driven space that promotes technology, art and heritage.

Noor said people who are unable to afford high data rates could use the public Wi-Fi hotspots set up by the government.

“The free Wi-Fi project and the digital hub Jitume programme will engage and empower the youth and unleash their full potential,” he said.

He said the Jitume digital hubs and public Wi-Fi hotspot networks will help bridge the digital divide.

“These digital initiatives aim to provide affordable and reliable internet access to all and sundry and enable people to participate in the digital economy and access essential services,” said Noor.

Noor hailed the government for its ambitious programmes to embrace digital transformation for sustainable growth.

“As the world embraces the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Kenya must also move faster to come up with digital solutions for its growth,” he said.

Noor said besides enhancing community digital skills and building talent capacity, the Jitume digital hubs will also engage the youth in meaningful activities instead of dabbling in drug and substance abuse out of idleness.

Nominated Senator Miraj Abdilahi and the vice chairperson of the ICT committee at the Senate said internet access is a crucial factor in the country’s socio-economic development.

Ms. Abdilahi said the government’s free Wi-Fi initiative will expedite easy communication among Kenyans of all walks of life and improve their situation in this digital era.

“The public Wi-Fi will at least make our public spaces livelier if there is unlimited internet connectivity that is free,” she said.

Source: Kenya News

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