In an effort to promote digital access and inclusivity, Kenya aims to roll out the first consignment of one million domestically built smartphones in two months at a unit retail price of Ksh5,484 ($40).
Eliud Owalo, the ICT Cabinet Secretary, claimed that the cost of smart devices has been a significant barrier to digital inclusion, necessitating the necessity for local production of the devices, as seen in the East African, a news publication delivering news centered around East Africa.
He said that the Konza Technopolis in Malili, Machakos County, is where the inexpensive cell phones are put together.
Based on feasibility studies undertaken, we can locally assemble smartphones at a unit cost of about $40. We’ve partnered with the private sector to ensure in the next two months, we can roll out our first consignment of low-cost smartphones,” Owalo said during the official launch of the Information Communication and Technology (ICT) week at the Nairobi Safari Park on Wednesday.
“We are aware of the affordability crisis of smart devices as a potential hindrance to the ability of citizens to tap the full potential that this sector presents and we have actively engaged stakeholders in private and manufacturing to produce low-cost smartphones,” he added.
As of the end of December 2022, the Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) reported that the penetration of feature phones, or non-smartphones, was 68.1%.
The percentage of people in the nation who own smartphones is 60.2%. “The number of mobile subscriptions increased from 65.5 million reported last quarter to 65.7 million during the reference period, representing a penetration rate of 133.1%,” said CAK in the latest quarterly report.
According to Owalo, the slow adoption of smartphones has hampered the use of other banking and governmental services. Additionally, the state intends to hasten digital inclusion by installing the first 5,000 km of the 100,000 km of fiber optic cable by June of this year, a project that will be partially financed by the World Bank.
The CS stated that Ksh68.55 billion ($500 million) in funding from the World Bank is intended for nationwide fiber connections for digital inclusion. “We have received $500 million from the World Bank towards the digital transformation agenda, under the Kenya digital economy acceleration program,” said Owalo.
“We have a target of rolling out 5000km of optic fiber by June 30. We have onboarded contractors and reached out to other government agencies including the Kenya Power and Lighting Company, Kenya Pipeline Company, Kenya Railways Corporation, and Kenya Electricity Transmission Company and we’ll be good to go,” he added.
The five-year plan to construct an extra 100,000 km of the national fiber optic cable was initially announced by President Ruto in October of last year, a month after he took office, as part of the infrastructural pillar of the country’s digital transformation goal.
The government will lay around 52% of the 100,000 km of anticipated fiber optic cable; the other 80% will be completed by the private sector. The project’s goals include accelerating nationwide internet connectivity and ensuring consistent, dependable access to it.