NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 5 – The government has been at the forefront in trying to provide cheap internet access and e-services at the grassroots level. It aims to do by setting up digital centres in all constituencies in the country.
Through the Kenya ICT Board, which is the state corporation spearheading this project, the government has launched the first centre, which have been dubbed ‘Pasha Centres’ in Kangundo.
Capital Business had a chat with ICT Board Chief Executive Officer Paul Kukubo to explain the latest developments in this program.
Q: Tell us more about Pasha Centres?
A: The idea for the centres was mooted by the Ministry of Information and Communication to bridge the digital divide. When the board was formed in 2007, we were asked to execute a project to create digital access centres around the country. This was going to be supported by funding from the World Bank. The vision is that we create 210 centres – one every constituency – in three years.
Q: Where will they be located?
A: They will be in areas where the common man would be able to walk in and get services that are internet-enabled which can include access to government content, government online forms, being able to browse the internet and conduct business over the internet or e-commerce.
Q: Who is funding this project?
A: The capital required is going to be provided through support by the Board in terms of soft loans provided to people who have gone through training programs.
The training program has commenced countrywide and we have about 1500 people in various centres and this is the first batch. We are going to train another batch and by the end of the program, we will have trained 7,500 entrepreneurs.
Not all the 7,500 entrepreneurs are going to be able to set up their centres because (they are going to go through) a three-week course that will be intensive. Those who see it fit to do a business will do so, they will submit those business plans to us, we will look at them and then they will be able to go to commercial banks or other financial institutions-which we will have vetted- and get loans.
The money will enable them to either upgrade existing centres or start new ones if they don’t have one and buy equipment like computers depending on what their plans are.
Q: How will you provide bandwidth support?
A: We shall centralise technical support to these centres and we will provide them with bandwidth subsidy that they need even though the cables are coming so they don’t have to know so much about technology in some areas. For example you’ll find that those in Western Kenya will be connected to one server that is well advanced and which can support the rest.
Q: Successful trainees will be required to contribute 10 percent of the total costs (of setting up a centre.) Don’t you think this will keep away some people who’d want to own a centre?
A: We find that most people who are serious in setting up a business don’t have a problem putting in some money into a project they are interested in. it is a show of commitment towards what they are doing.
Q: What do you hope to achieve when the centres are up and running?
A: We hope that majority of people in the rural areas will access government information and services such as NSSF statements, driving license application forms, police extracts among others, from these centres. It will not be necessary to travel to Nairobi to do so.