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Kenya to set up innovation centres

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 4 – The government will soon open centres through which Kenyans can develop innovative mobile applications in the country.

Information Permanent Secretary Dr Bitange Ndemo said on Wednesday that the government is working with the private sector to open up the centres which will go a long way in promoting the development of local content and creation of employment opportunities.

“Here the government will supply sufficient broadband of between 20 and 50 Megabytes to ensure that kids who have no access to broadband can just walk in and work on their computers,” he said adding that centers would go hand in hand with another proposal to create mobile application laboratories.

He disclosed that the first centre will be opened in Upper Hill, Nairobi, from where people who come up with creative solutions and products would be incubated and provided with managerial and entrepreneurial skills to enable them to grow.

For this to be successful, the PS urged people to acquire smart phones that would enable them to access a wide range of services and other multimedia applications.

He expressed satisfaction with the various government strategies such as the provision of cheaper laptops which he said had begun to bear fruit.

The ‘One Million Computers’ program for instance through which the government had pledged to guarantee money borrowed by organisations in order to ensure that a million computers are disseminated at a cheaper rate had proved a success.

Mr Ndemo however explained that the government was forced to approach operators directly, a move that has seen about 500 new computers being sold on a daily basis. The PS was optimistic that between 1.5 million and 1.8 million computers would be sold before the end of this year which would go a long way in revolutionalising ICT uptake in the country.

“We are approaching more than 600,000 units and one operator says they are going to do 1.2 million laptops this year which is way better that we thought,” he said adding that the ICT Board and the World Bank hoped to disseminate 300,000 computers to students during the same period.

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The operationalisation of the undersea fibre optic cables has played a big role in increasing the uptake of Internet usage and it is expected to also boost Internet penetration levels in the country up from the current four million users.

He regretted that telecommunications providers continue to frustrate government’s dreams to have majority of Kenyans having access to affordable and quality broadband by declining to lower the internet prices. Some have argued that they need to recoup their heavy investments, a claim that the government has dismissed.

Mr Ndemo said they were investigating claims that the operators are colluding to keep Internet prices high with a view to taking stern action against them and promised that there will be major government interventions in the next two months.

“Last year we couldn’t do anything, we just made noise that the price is very high now we have teeth because we have the new regulation in place, the anti-competitive practices through which we can use the regulator to intervene,” he warned.

He also expressed the government’s frustration with the World Bank over the bureaucratic procedures that it has taken before releasing funds that are needed to set up digital villages in the country.

He however added the government would not wait from the donor funds but would go ahead and establish the centers with the help of private sector players.

“We won’t wait for the World Bank, in three weeks we will begin to see roll out from the private sector and government,” he said.

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