Dear GKD Members,

I got back from Kenya after serving there as a VSO [1] volunteer for a
year. I was teaching IT in a womens college in a rural place called
Tala. I also trained the staff on the more advanced subjects of the

First, let me talk about the state of connectivity in the country.

Connectivity in Kenya is pretty decent in the cities (Nairobi, Mombasa,
Kisumu and Nakuru). Literacy in the country is pretty high.  Many of
the younger people in the 15-35 age group are becoming increasingly
netsavvy in the cities. They browse the web in one of the numerous
internet browsing centres and have a hotmail or yahoo mail account.
Prices are competitive and range in the cities betwen 1 Kenyan Shilling
to 5 Kenyan Shillings per minute (1 US$ =~ 70 KSh).

ISPs charge somewhere in the range of 8000 KSh / year for unlimited
activity.  On top of this, dial-up users must pay applicable per-minute
telcom charges.

Even though there are many ISPs in the country and competition between
them is fierce, there are two problems:

1. All traffic has to flow in and out of the country through the Kenya
Telecom monopoly owned JamboNet [2].  This creates a single point of
failure and a bottleneck.

2. Only the bigger cities have local access / dial-up numbers.  If
someone is in not in one of these cities, they have to make a long
distance / trunk call.  The telcome per-minute charges on these vary
depending on how far from a POP the user is.

WAP is available on one (KenCell) of the two mobile phone providers.
But, I have not seen it being used in the circles I moved in.

There is a US AID funded effort to connect colleges and universities

Now, let me answer the specific questions

> 1. What activities are endeavoring to bring connectivity to
> under-served communities?

I am not sure what other organized activities are being carried out in
the country.  I am aware of two - One that I worked on and another of
similar scope [4].  In my case, we got a subsidized 64k VSAT connection
through UUNet.  In addition to this connection being used by the
students of the college, we also created a internet browsing center on
campus for people from the community to use at a nominal fee.  This
enables the college to raise at least part of the cost of the internet
connection.  We also have a plan to set up a local wireless network to
share the bandwidth with the surrounding community.  There are many
formal and vocational schools in the surrounding community that have
expressed interest in this service.

> 2. What are the goals of these efforts? To what extent are the goals 
> attained?

The goal of this effort was to provide access to the relatively
marginalized community of Tala.  There is no connectivity in a
50-kilometer radius around this community.  Part of the goal is income
generation for the college as well as people using the wireless network.

The lack of wireless networking equipment in Kenya hindered the
achievement of the wireless network.  At the moment I am working with
another volunteer who is going to be going to Kenya in 2004.  I intend
to procude the equipment in the US and send it through the volunteer.

> 3. Who is being served by these connectivity efforts? Are the benefits
> widely distributed? Do some groups "win" and some "lose" in these
> connectivity efforts?

I believe that the effort benefits the community widely.  The students
get connectivity, the community piggy backs on the connection at a
nominal fee.  It, in fact, spurs business because a privately run
cybercafe business can make quite a bit of money by using the wireless
network bandwidth to provide internet access at a fee.

> 4. How do connectivity efforts seek to ensure that all groups benefit?

We involved the local town council, schools, parish and businesses early
in our efforts.

> 5. What are the costs and constraints these connectivity efforts face?

A VSAT connection is prohibively expensive.  Such projects can't work
till it reaches a critical mass of people willing to work together and
share costs in getting connected.


[4] Chinni Tu
Key fingerprint = 8A 84 2E 67 10 9A 64 03  24 38 B6 AB 1B 6E 8C E4

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