Open data portal’s success hinges on high speed internet
Posted Friday, July 15 2011 at 14:00
Information providers have welcomed the launch of the government’s open data portal, saying it will ensure speed, convenience and manageable costs.
But a section of information technology experts have reservations and have listed a number of steps that must be taken for the service to benefit rural folk.
Among the requirements they have cited are fast speed Internet infrastructure for rural areas, tax incentive to draw service providers to the remote regions and electricity supply.
Accessibility of high speed Internet in rural areas should be the next priority for the Government, Mr Francis Waithaka, an IT consultant who specialises in web development, told the Business Daily.
“Accessibility of high-speed Internet connection remains a challenge for many in remote areas since most ISPs in Kenya have not made inroads into these parts of the country.” he said.
Because of the firm’s cautious approach , Internet access “still remains relatively expensive for the average ICT consumer in a remote town in Kenya.”
Besides, the infrastructure that facilitates internet access is not in place. “Not only do we have low Internet connectivity in rural areas, but electricity which is required to run those computers is not available,” he said.
The government is also urged to provide incentives to investors seeking to establish ICT infrastructure in rural areas. “The government should give tax cuts to internet service providers who invest in digital villages in these areas.
“This will go a long way in providing investor confidence and enhancing creation of the digital villages,” he said.The cost of Internet and the speeds have been a sustained debate since the landing of the undersea fibre optic cables more than two years ago.
None other than President Kibaki during the launch of the portal— www.opendata.go.ke — last week asked the Information ministry to consult with all players to ensure that the costs were affordable to ease access.
A day after the President’s directive, the Information PS, Dr Bitange Ndemo, said from July 18 the ministry would discuss with the local authorities how to invest in inland cables to be shared by the ISPs. The providers said connectivity charges by the councils and the annual fees were exorbitant.
Other experts say the open data system should be backed by intense public education to make it less elitist.
Mr Maurice Otieno, the deputy ICT administrator at the Kisumu Municipal Council, said the open data portal will be highly underused by the rural communities if sensitisation on access and benefits were not marked as a priority.
“Internet penetration in rural areas is still poor and despite the developments in fibre optic technology, connection speeds remain low ” he said.
“In addition , few people know that such services exist because most of the information is centered in the capital.”
Mr Otieno said although the government initiated the digital villages programme, Internet Service Providers till shy from making large investments in rural areas.
Last week, Kenya became the first country in Africa to open its database to the public for scrutiny, a move that is expected to greatly improve service delivery by providing the much needed information to citizens on government operations.