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ICT development Expo: Digital Village

Last week I attended an expo sponsored by the Ministry of Information and Communication that was about ICT opportunities in rural Kenya. The conjucture of rural and ICT obviously drew my attention (Read my post about internet in the village). I know the event was over a number of days but truth be told I only went one day and only one entry caught my eye (plus it was too hot and not very well attended).

The entry was a supposedly turnkey digital centre for use in rural areas. It was made of a cargo container outfitted with solar powered electricity outlets and structured cabling. It also had 8 PCs with TFT monitors placed on 2'x2' desks. The use of space was incredible, with a desk at the back end probably for the manager. A representative for Davis & Shirtliff (co-sponsors of the entry) was at hand to elaborate on the project.

The project is a private sector/public initiative fronted by the Ministry of Information. Davis & Shirtliff provide the solar power technology and Kenya Data Networks are to provide the networking (I think) and internet connectivity, the Ministry provides the rest. The initial setup cost is K.Shs. 2.5 m ($37,715). There was no indication on running costs but the bulk of this would be internet connectivity which was to be heavily subsidised by the government.

I think the initiative is a good idea, but I had some doubts with the approach. D&S are not specialists in solar power, so their margins might be unnecessarily higher. The solar power also has limitations on the power of devices which can be connected to it. The D&S rep recommended 40Watts or less which pretty much rules on copiers, laser jet printers, and even PCs. Their recommendation was to use laptops (Harry: too expensive). KDN have done a wonderful job laying fibre-optic cable contrywide and installing WiFi hotspots around Nairobi, but short of using the relatively expensive VSAT, I don't see how they will reach most rural areas.

The project is in prototype stage so there is still a lot of flexibility for redesign. You can be sure I will be contributing my two cents worth.

Comments

Anonymous said…
You might find this interesting.

Keep blogging please.
Unknown said…
I love solar power I think over the next few years it's going to be exploding even more... as performance of solar panels goes up people are going to be adopting it everywhere they can... after all it's free energy :) BTW here is more solar power information -> Solar Power
Benin said…
Harry:

I think that your input would mean a lot to the the government ministry that you mentioned and hope that the will be open to your suggestions. It sounds like your hands on experiences and knowledge as to what works and what doesn't is just the tool needed to help wire Kenya's rural areas. Just keep on the path and you can't go wrong!
Unknown said…
Keep up the good work, I see your concerns on Solar but cheap rural power is soon becoming a reality. The real challenge is the Internet connection I think we can forget VSAT and anything Telekom. I will follow your progress
Anonymous said…
What rural Kenya needs is the basics. Health, Education, Water, Roads, Security. Once that is covered, ICT is much welcome.

Its hard to convince a rural folk who doesnt know where his next meal will come from, dropped out of school coz of no fees, has no access to proper health care; that internet will revolutionize his life.

Basics 1st
Poly Muthumbi said…
wow! I can see Kenyans who are not ready for any change. Food on the table or no food, we need Digital villages. From there communication will be excellent and whoever doesnt have food on the table will write an email to ministry of health and food to help bring food on the table. ICT is the way forward. we need it together with all the other essentials. That is why we have a special minister for the special case, otherwise if he served as the minister for health too, oops! we won't need ICT anymore. Keep posting, Kenyans be positive!!!!!!!!!!!!
Now is September 2009, what is the progress I wonder?
matangu said…
What is the progress on this?it is taking too long.our rural people need it.
Harry Karanja said…
Matangu please verify with the Kenya ICT board and PS Ministry of Information who are in charge of these projects. You can reach their CEOs via their twitter handles @pkukubo and @bantigito respectively.

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