Kenya unable to lower Internet costs

July 29, 2010

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 29 – Low Internet penetration in the country has been cited as one of the inhibition for lowering the costs.

The Ministry of Information and Communication says while service providers acknowledge the need to bring down the costs; they are still not satisfied with the penetration rate that would guarantee sustained business.

Permanent Secretary Dr Bitange Ndemo said on Thursday that the Ministry was looking towards conducting a countrywide sensitisation campaign in an effort of increasing the number of Internet users.

“We have to actively increase the number of users to a point operators are able to reduce costs,” Dr Ndemo said.

According to the latest research on the world’s Internet usage compiled by technology firm Internet World Stat, Kenya has close to 3.5 million internet users or 8.6 percent of the Kenyan population.

Egypt tops Africa’s list of Internet users, with about 12.6 million of its population hooked on the net, followed by Nigeria with 11 million, Morocco 10.3 million, Sudan 3.8 million, and Algeria 3.5 million.

Dr Ndemo said that with the fibre optic network fully laid out in the country, the number would have to at least double before prices start falling.

Internet service providers however argue it would take close to three years before users witness the desired drop.

West Indian Ocean Cable Company (WIOCC) Chief Executive Officer Chris Wood has in the past said recouping investment made in laying fibre optic cables was a major deterrent to lowering costs.

With three fibre optic cables in the country, investors are treading carefully as they try to balance the need to make money and offering services that beat the competition.

One way of driving up the numbers is the introduction of cheaper Internet enabled mobile phones into the market.

Safaricom Chief Executive Officer Michael Joseph has argued that while the Internet infrastructure is well set across the country, it is yet to have the desired effect, as most people remain locked out from accessing it due to high costs of computers and smart phones.

“What we really want is everybody to have access to the Internet,” Mr Joseph said.




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