Community Internet service provider poa! internet today launched Kenya’s first village home Internet service, offering unlimited Wi-Fi into homes in a 48 sq km area around Ting’ang’a in Kiambu County. The launch comes as the first of a wave of village connections that will eventually provide millions of rural Kenyans with a cheaper and unlimited alternative to 4G data bundles.
Ting’ang’a, with more than 20,000, residents, sits in a coffee and dairy farming zone, without even a bank branch, although as a peri-urban village, set just 35km outside Nairobi, it has benefitted from new tarmac access roads. The county government is also building an open air market in the village to boost its fortunes.
However, as the first Kenyan village to get unlimited home Internet in poa!’s sweep across Kiambu county, Ting’ang’a is now making a small piece of history.
“African internet has for too long been dominated by the challenge of a digital divide, with the rich and urban longsince fully connected, but low-income and rural Kenyans hidebound by a lack of internet infrastructure and poor access to affordable services” said Andy Halsall, poa!’s CEO.
However, poa! is now moving to the second stage of its connectivity strategy, connecting rural villages to unlimited Internet, following from its successful launch of affordable internet services in low-income areas of Kibera, Kawangware, Jamhuri and Kabiria. In Nirobi, which have already connected thousands of slum dwellers.
“Our mission has always been to develop the technology and infrastructure to connect the unconnected, intitially in Nairobi’s slums, and now across the country’s villages,” said Chris Rhodes, poa!’s COO.
Poa’s new home service provides installations in a matter of days in the villages it connects, delivering unlimited Internet for Sh1,500 a month, which is less than half the cost of 4G data bundles from the country’s telcos.
“Until now, many rural Kenyans literally had no alternative. Many people cannot even get a 4G signal where they live, as it isn’t financially practical for mobile operators to provide the 4G infrastructure in rural areas. Yet, from Ting’ang’a, we will be expanding rapidly across Kiambu County and then into other counties with an Internet offer that could bring many thousands of rural Kenyans online,” said Andy.
“Beyond the provision of low-cost internet access, we are also aiming at creating jobs for the residents, both directly and indirectly. Our model gives priority to local youth in recruiting for our sales teams. We shall also be working with local schools and community centres to provide free community Internet services,” said Chris.
In Kibera and Kawangware, poa! has provided both Blue Star Academy and St Anne’s High School with free and unlimited Internet.
Ting’ang’a has six schools, five primary and one secondary, as well as several community centres.
poa! is also planning to create a public Wi-Fi hotspot in Ting’ang’a’s village square.
“Overall, our partnership with local communities through our ‘community internet’ model enables us to build multiple access points across vast areas, solving one of the largest connectivity disparities between the digital ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ in Kenya,” said Andy.
Research shows that providing home and business internet services considerably accelerates economic growth, as small businesses access new markets and information, and families are able to better identify opportunities and study.