NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 17 – The government hopes to have migrated about 85 percent of the country’s population from the current analogue transmission to the digital one by April next year.
Information Permanent Secretary Dr Bitange Ndemo told reporters on Thursday that they have started a pilot program that will see households in Nairobi and its environs switch to the technology which will enable them to enjoy among other things high quality, crystal-clear pictures on their television sets.
“What we are doing for the pilot stage is to see what hiccups there are before we roll it out, but I think by next April, we should have covered a great deal of the country,” the PS enthused adding that Nairobi, Kiambu, Kajiado and Muranga would be covered in the first phase.
By October, the government through the Digital Transition Committee hopes to deploy some prototypes which dealers can use to see the crossover standards.
He expressed confidence that Kenya would complete its full transition in the next three years thus beating the international deadline of 2015.
When this is done, Kenya will join the rank of countries such as South Africa, most European nations and North American states that have already switched over.
“In Africa, only South Africa has done so and most of them (African countries) will be caught flat-footed by 2015 because it involves a lot. Public education alone is a big issue,” he explained.
The government, he said, was partnering with the media to create awareness among Kenyans and ensure a smooth transition. This has already started with the dissemination of the advice that Kenyans will have to buy gadgets, popularly referred to as ‘set-top boxes’ that will enable them to receive digital signals on their TVs sets.
Each device is estimated to cost between Sh1,500 and Sh5,000.
While raising the alarm about the set-top boxes that are currently in the market saying they were not compatible with the technology that the government intends to use in the exercise, the PS asked consumers to be cautious when purchasing these devices.
“The technology that we will use is known as ‘Digital Video Broadcasting Terrestrial’ (DVBT). The compression method that we will be used is called MPEG-4. Some people want to take advantage of this opportunity to bring things that will not help us,” he said while complaining that the business people did not bother to consult the ministry before importing the gadgets.
The PS also said Kenyans should not be duped into buying digital Tv sets saying none are in the market yet.
“The costs (of digital Tvs) are very high so what many countries are doing is they are using the set-top boxes. I was at the University of Nairobi to ensure that we begin local assembly of these products (set-top boxes),” he said adding that Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology had agreed to do the same.
At the same time, Ndemo assured the public that the country has the capacity to dispose off the Tvs sets that will become obsolete once the exercise has been completed.
Black and white Tvs will be the first casualties and will have to be done away with. But, through the Computer for Schools Kenya facilities, Dr Ndemo said they would recycle the e-waste in an effective and environmental friendly way.