With the eminent arrival of Seacom and Teams broadband infrastructure to Kenya, it’s Minister for Finance, Uhuru Kenyatta, proposed three major investments in ICT to benefit university students, public servants and ordinary wananchi.
Minister Kenyatta announced commitments of over Ksh 16.3 billion to the Mobile Computer Laboratories, Digital Villages, and One Million Computers programs in his 2009-2010 Budget speech, as a way for Kenyans to take advantage of the cheaper broadband Internet.
Mobile Computer Labs (new)
Minister Kenyatta allocated Ksh1.3 billion ($16.6 million) to purchase Mobile Computer Laboratories – computer-filled buses – for each Parliamentary region of the country. These ICT buses will be for high-school students and follow Rwanda’s ICT Bus initiative, where that country is poised to roll out mobile telecenters for rural communities under its eRwanda program.
Digital Villages (existing)
Similar to a small cybercafe, Kenya’s Digital Villages are small ICT centers in each Parliamentary region that are designed to create business hubs and expand economic opportunities in rural areas. This project, in partnership with the World Bank, is already underway and has rolled out 16 centers so far.
One Million Computers (new)
Minister Kenyatta allocated Ksh 15 billion ($195 million) to the One Million Computer program, which like its name suggests, will try to disseminate a million laptops and desktops to university students and other Kenyans. This is both the most interesting and exciting program for ICT companies in Kenya.
Designed as a financing project, the government will guarantee money borrowed either by individuals or organizations to buy computers before next June, with the government paying the interest on the loans. The program s expected to work with broadband providers, who would also be interested in discounting computer prices to bring in new Internet service accounts.
This scheme is reminiscent of freebee marketing, where companies steeply discount or give away one product that creates an ongoing income stream for another. Its also an opportunity to gain up to 1 million new customers for computer companies, even if they are not ISPs.
Massive Market Opportunity
With a current computer penetration at less than 3% of the population, all these new computer users in Kenya will be looking for local training, content, and web-based services – a whole new market for local ICT vendors, software developers, and writers. Better yet, most of these new ICT consumers will be outside Nairobi, expanding the usage and market opportunity across the country. And just in time. As Information PS, Dr. Bitange Ndemo says
“The country now has a number of high speed connectivity and it would be a crime if we don’t utilise this because of lack of computers.”
Not utilizing this investment as a massive market opportunity would be an equal crime as well.