Addressing the digital divide is high on the agenda of every African nation, and Kenya, home to the upcoming East Africa Com event, is no exception.
There's less than two months to go until the annual East Africa Com event, now in its 14th year, which returns in May to Nairobi, Kenya's capital, to discuss and debate the latest developments in connectivity across the region.
The work of both the public and private sectors and indeed the collaboration of these two spheres has led to encouraging growth in East African ICT and telecom development. A key example of this collaboration and its resultant benefits has been the work of the Universal Service Advisory Council, a board formed within the Communications Authority of Kenya.
Speaking at the 2016 event, as well as serving as a key panelist at this year's East Africa Com, the Council's Governance and ICT4D expert, Nixon Gecheo, discussed the remit of the Universal Advisory Council, which is to "spread reliable and affordable communication services to the unserved and underserved areas of Kenya."
In order to fund its work in Kenya, the Council set up the Universal Service Access Fund, through an act of parliament, in 2009. All of the country's mobile operators are required to contribute to the fund, with the contribution of each operator capped at 1% of the gross annual turnover from all licenses offering communication services on a commercial basis.
Gecheo notes that the two main objectives of the fund are to promote communications infrastructure and services rollout and ensure the availability of communication services of people with disabilities.
"As government we are saying that every Kenyan has a right to gain information, and through this fund, we are trying to bridge the gap of IT and promote communication infrastructure and rollout. The other [priority] is to facilitate the development of, and access to, a wide range of local and relevant content and to support expansion of communication services of schools, health facilities and other organisations serving public need."
Since its establishment in 2009, the Council and Fund has achieved some considerable success in bridging the ICT divide, including opening 16 ICT centers in Kenyan secondary schools (two in each province), eight ICT center schools for people with disabilities (covering all secondary schools for PWDs in Kenya), 56 e-Resource centers within the Kenyan National Library Service outlets, as well as an eHealth project in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Qualcomm.
To learn more about the Universal Service Advisory Council and the Universal Service Access Fund, watch the video below:
See Gecheo speak: He'll be taking part in an East Africa Com 2017 panel discussion focusing on how large corporations are supporting ICT for development goals and creating opportunities for SMEs in tech. View the East Africa Com agenda here.
If you're interested in ICT initiatives in East Africa, why not learn from and engage with the architects at the forefront of the region's tech and telecom development at East Africa Com 2017? Find out more about the event here. Super Early Bird tickets are available until March 31 -- purchase yours here.