Communication authority seeks Sh300bn to seal ICT gap

So far, operators have paid only Sh2.9 billion towards the fund.

Thursday January 21 2016

Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) Director-General Francis Wangusi (left) during a media briefing at the authority's offices in Nairobi on January 7, 2016. The CA is exploring ways of increasing contribution towards the USF fund, including subsidising by 50 per cent the fee for setting up base stations in rural areas. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) Director-General Francis Wangusi (left) during a media briefing at the authority's offices in Nairobi on January 7, 2016. The CA is exploring ways of increasing contribution towards the USF fund, including subsidising by 50 per cent the fee for setting up base stations in rural areas. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By LILIAN OCHIENG'
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The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) needs to mobilise Sh300 billion to close the country’s ICT access gap, even as it floats bids for the project’s implementation in September.

A study released on Thursday by Canadian firm Intelecon Research and Consultancy says that 5.6 per cent of the population, representing 2.7 million people, is still un-served.

CA Director-General Francis Wangusi said the authority was in a dilemma on whether the current contribution of 0.5 per cent of the gross turnover of operators towards the Universal Service Fund is sufficient.

“We lost considerable amount of time while sending several demand notes for licensees to comply,” said Mr Wangusi in a statement.

“For this reason, the draft USF regulation has incorporated a penalty of 0.2 per cent of the gross turnover on all licensees who fail to meet their respective USF obligations.”

So far, operators have paid only Sh2.9 billion towards the fund.

A winning consultancy firm will deliver the final ICT access gap study by February 2016, showcasing areas to be prioritised while implementing the fund’s dictates.

The Universal Service Advisory Council (USAC), which is in charge of implementation of the fund, says that it has already set aside Sh1.5 billion to begin putting the funds into use.

“We anticipate to embark on advertising tenders for infrastructure projects worth Sh1 billion starting September this year,” said USAC Chairperson Catherine Ngahu.

“The projects will include voice and broadband coverage in identified access gap areas. In addition, the fund will also support Internet connectivity in learning institutions in the country to the tune of Sh500 million,” said Dr Ngahu.

The CA is exploring ways of increasing contribution towards the USF fund, including subsidising by 50 per cent the fee for setting up base stations in rural areas.

This will lure operators to deepen their reach.

Research firm Intelecon says that it will be practical to offer subsidies at 20 per cent on projects with a capital expenditure of 80 per cent.

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