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CA’s rural ICT reserve kitty hits Sh5.5 billion

The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) is banking on the Universal Service Fund (USF) to deepen availability and accessibility of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in rural, remote and poor urban areas.

CA, which has already collected over Sh5.5 billion as part of operators’ contribution to the fund, seeks to grow the kitty by a further Sh3 billion once implementation of its ongoing key projects is complete.

The projects, which include execution of Education Broadband Connectivity Plan, that seeks to connect 896 public secondary schools across the 47 counties, is projected to grow USF fund exponentially over time.

This fund, whose purpose is to support widespread access to ICT services, promote capacity building and innovation in the country, became active in 2013 and is primarily financed through mandatory contributions by licensed operators who contribute 0.5 per cent of their gross revenue.

Sources of the fund include levies on licensees, appropriations from government as well as grants and donations. CA director general Francis Wangusi however, expressed concerns over inconsistency of remittances by some licensees.

“While I’m happy to report that a majority of the licensees have been remitting their contribution to the USF kitty, we are also grappling with a number of licensees who have not been consistent in their remittances. The authority is engaging them to comply with provisions of the law,” said Wangusi.

Wangusi was speaking yesterday during the inauguration of six members of the Universal Service Advisory Council (USAC) which takes office on a three-year tenure. USAC key responsibilities will be to advise the Telcoms industry regulator in coming up with policies for execution of the USF fund.

The advisory council, whose other members had previously served a three-year contract following their nomination in 2014, will be chaired by Catherine Ngahu.

“You may have noticed that by appointing six members, we still have room for three more to reach the maximum of nine members as required by law. The appointment has been staggered to avoid a situation when the council will have no members when the current team’s term expires.

I will be making appointments on the remaining slots very soon,” ICT CS Joseph Mucheru said in a speech read on his behalf by his Permanent Secretary, Sammy Itemere.

USF’s five-billion milestone had previously been marred by reservations from telecom companies who had contended CA’s initial suggestion to increase that contribution to one per cent.

A study done by CA and USAC, titled ICT Access Gaps, to determine the levels of access to Information and Communications services in the country, revealed that 5.6 per cent of the population or about 2.66 million people have no access to telecommunication services, with about 418 sub-locations having less than half of their population covered by communications services while another 164 sub-locations have no access to 2G mobile service.

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