NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 11 – The Kenya ICT Board has loaned out Sh27.95 million to 26 entrepreneurs from different constituencies in Kenya in an effort to roll out electronic facilities named Pasha Centres, to address the disparity in distribution of ICT services.
Commonly referred to as digital villages, the Pasha Centres are hubs that provide a host of services to the public via internet-connected computers or other ICT-enabled applications at the grassroots level.
Information and Communications Permanent Secretary Bitange Ndemo announced that the government was still on course with fibre optic cable connected to rural areas with access to digital information.
“We’ve already covered about 34 county headquarters and we’re going to cover the remaining 13 while going deeper into some of the counties where the population is higher,” he said.
With the addition of 26 new Pasha centres, the total number of facilities created since 2011 has jumped to 63, accounting for 30 percent of the ICT coverage in the country.
“Electronic voting and access of government services through the web, is only possible if digital villages are near the people,” Ndemo stressed.
“That’s why we are serious about improving internet connectivity, building local digital content and creating awareness about ICT products and services in rural Kenya,” he added.
The PS urged Kenyans to use the digital villages to gather stories about the country and to create a content portal to attract advertising revenue to help fund the creation of more Pasha centres.
“We must go into the villages and actually tell them that they have something to offer and they can benefit from it,” he said.
“Our cultures are under threat because we have refused to capture them in formats that our children will be able to read about in the years to come,” he added.
The Pasha Centres are run by private entrepreneurs who have gone through the training program initiated by Kenya ICT Board and prospective entrepreneurs who have undergone training are eligible to apply for a development loan from a revolving fund set up by the Board.
Digital Inclusion Project Manager at Kenya ICT Board Kwame Shiroya said the selection of the new Pasha managers was done openly through a competitive process.
“The online application saw more than 10,000 Kenyans sign up for the loans,” he said.
Each successful entrepreneur will receive an average of Sh1 million with total loans of Sh27, 955,000 being set aside cumulatively.
The revolving fund that is run through the Kenya ICT Board Digital Villages Project (DVP) started disbursing funds in 2011 and is aimed at addressing disparities in the information flow between rural and urban areas.
So far, a total of Sh34,389,740 has been disbursed through Family Bank which is the administering institution for the fund.
The digital village project is an integral part of an innovative public private partnership for taking ICTs to the rural communities in Kenya.
The board is collaborating with CISCO and Intel and is currently in talks with Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) to further advance the ICT skills of the Pasha Managers and increase ICT advocacy in the rural areas.