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TMCNet:  Kenya moves to boost ICT update in rural areas

[July 11, 2012]

Kenya moves to boost ICT update in rural areas

NAIROBI, Jul 11, 2012 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- The Kenyan government on Wednesday awarded loans to 26 new Information and Communication Technology (ICT) centers in various counties to improve internet connectivity across the East African nation.

The move brings the total number of Pasha Centers incepted since 2011 to 63, accounting for 30 percent ICT coverage in the country.

"Electronic voting and access of government services through the web, is only possible if digital villages are near the people, " the Ministry of Information Permanent Secretary Dr. Bitange Ndemo told journalists in Nairobi.

"That is why we are serious about improving Internet connectivity, building local digital content and creating awareness about ICT products and services in rural Kenya." The development came as Chinese firm Huawei has secured an exclusive tender to build a 70 million U.S. dollar national fiber optic infrastructure and e-government projects expected to start in August.

Ndemo challenged the new entrepreneurs to be innovative at the services they will be offering at their constituencies in order to be able to create sustainable businesses.

Ndemo noted that already Treasury had approved the MTE project and this would help connect schools, health and Pasha centers in all parts of the country.

Digital inclusion Project Manager at Kenya ICT Board, Kwame Shiroya said the selection of the new Pasha Managers was done openly through a competitive process. "The online application saw more than 10,000 Kenyans sign up for the loans," said Shiroya.

Pasha Centers are hubs that provide a host of services to the public via computers connected to the internet, or by using and marketing other ICT-enabled applications.

The centers offer a blend of Internet access, computer training, vocational training, ICT retail, access to government services, entertainment and gaming, typing and data entry, printing services, copying and scanning, cell phones and SIM card sales, Mobile Money or other financial services, IT support and services, office supplies and stationary sales, printer supplies, laminating and photography and other IT enabled services.

Each successful entrepreneur will receive an average of 12,000 dollars with total loans of 333,000 dollars being set aside cumulatively.

The revolving fund that is run through the Kenya ICT Board Digital Villages Project (DVP) started disbursing funds in 2011 and is aimed at addressing disparities in the information flow between rural and urban areas.

In the first round, 37 Pasha Managers were awarded loans, and a total of 570,000 dollars was approved for disbursement in April 2011.

To date a total of 410,000 dollars has been disbursed through Family Bank which is the administering institution for the fund.

The project run through the Ministry of Information and Communication is a blueprint to achieving Vision 2030, which recognizes that the provision of ICT goods and services in Kenya is important for enabling economic and social development.

The digital village project is an integral part of an innovative public private partnership for taking ICTs to the rural communities in Kenya.

Already, the board is collaborating with Cisco and Intel and is currently in talks with Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) to further advance the ICT skills of the Pasha Managers and increase ICT advocacy in the rural areas.

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