Fibre Optic Cables and Internet Bandwidth in Kenya : The Basics, part II

As discussed in part I, Kenya and the East African countries, recently joined the rest of the world in high speed, limitless bandwidth connection. This is thanks to the sub-marine fibre optic cables landed at Mombasa. So the BIG question that arose, was, now what? Or so what?

In the digital global village, high speed connectivity heralds a new dawn, hitherto not possible due to the limited capacity connections we had. New breakthroughs emerge as the world is able to communicate in a faster and more reliable way, thanks to the technology now available. The technology itself is not new, but the availability is.

For a growing economy like ours, there are myriad ways we can cruise into this new information super highway, and lift ourselves and the standards of our living. I cannot even begin to exhaustively cover what is possible due to the connections we now have, its is too broad a subject. I shall endeavour to narrow it down to what I think is relevant for the Kenya of today.

The knowledge economy driven by digital erasing of geographical and intellectual boundaries, is ours to take. We can leapfrog other economies by adapting ourselves to the new world that is now knocking. We can create new industries, new jobs, increase our industrial and agricultural capacity all using this new age technology. We can improve our academics in schools and universities, tapping into knowledge bases in far off countries. Our doctors can collaborate with colleagues across the globe and deliver better health care.

Our governemnt can take services online and enable its “customers” efficiently transact and consume services better. We can sell our farm produce in far off markets from the comfort of our farm houses. There is no limit to what we can do.


1. Applications Development – Software developers are having a field day. The new connectivity is bringing in lots of possibilities to create, test and deploy new software. Web applications, mobile applications, and freelancing are all happening at the speed of light. They have access to immense databases of source code, the DNA that software is made of. This access at high speeds means they can adapt the source code for our specific needs. This shortens the software development life cycle. They can collaborate with like-minded individuals across the globe and enhance their skills. The possibilities here are limitless. Is anyone taking advantage?

2. Outsourcing – There are tremendous opportunities in business process outsourcing, popularly known as BPO. This is where specialist companies are formed to take over the non-core, back office work of other corporations. This leaves the BPO’s customers to concentrate on their core businesses. The possibilities here are only limited to our innovation and industriousness. Other business opportunities lie in contact centres. Recently several of the mobile network operators have outsourced their customer care business to contact centres. This leaves them to manage their core business. Other opportunities lie in cloud computing, Software-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service, Infrastructure-as-a-Service, data centres, and dedicated, ICT-centric free economic zones (FEZs) and software technology parks (STPs). The technology, know how, financing, skilled manpower are all available. We however, need proper enabling legislation to propel these new age business. Then entrepreneurs can step in and start their ventures.

3. Academics – An initiative based at Kenyatta University known as Africa Virtual University is laudable. Using high speed links, there has been academic collaboration across the continent. The bandwidth now available should enhance this venture further. Whole digital libraries are now available. The largest library on earth, the US Library of Congress has a mind-boggling digital collection, and can be accessed by any authorized person with a computer and high-speed internet connection. We can also digitise our volumes and have them accessed by other people. Academic video on demand, streaming video from content servers strewn across the globe, live video feed from lectures or class sessions across the globe are all distinct possibilities. The only limit, our speed of adapting to these possibilities. Other countries are not waiting.

4. Business and Trade – Trade and commerce enters a whole new dimension. New markets, research, bidding and competition are enabled in ways we have never seen before. E-commerce is on the rise. A distinct attraction is SMEs face low barriers to entry into the word of e-commerce. Business alliances are being formed electronically across the globe, and new markets open up daily.

5. Government – With e-government initiatives, efficient services, higher revenue collection, rapid results can be achieved at low cost. Kenya Revenue Authority’s initiatives in this area are a case in point. It is commendable that there is genuine work in this direction for various governemnt departments. Video conferencing can drastically reduce travel costs and achieve more efficient meetings. We need to study how other governments have done it.

6. Telecommuting – This woud have the most significant effect on socio-economic progress in our country. As rural-urban migration puts pressure on resources in cities the pressure is on. Telecommuting can cut down wastage in non-essential travel, better utilization of time and skills, multi-tasking, use of video-conferencing for meetings, collaborative webinars, conference calls… the list is endless. We need new labour laws, we need to re-think the whole work scene. People should be able to work from anywhere they can connect, so long as their work does not need physical presence at their work place.

I have just scratched the surface above, and the list can go on and on. We need new work ethic, innopvate new ideas, get the legislature to enact new laws to ensure smooth working of the new digital age economy.

In part III, we discuss the flip side. Risks, security, theft, moral decadence, criminal activities….Yes all these come hand in hand with the sweet revolution. Every sweet smelling rose comes with thorns, I think.

Let me have your feedback below.


4 comments so far

  1. Eebrah on

    I love how we were sold on to the Idea of how radically “fibre” would have transformed our lives but I think that reality is finally sinking in, that “fibre” is not a silver bullet that will automatically provide each Kenyan with a broadband internet connection and consequently a better life.

    Currently what the middlemen, the ISPs, are doing is just wrong. Not passing along the savings that they are seeing to the end user on a comparable scale should be a criminal offense.

    The point remains that if you were not squeezing the most out of your old expensive 64Kbps connection, you are unlikely to get more productive with your brand spanking new 2Mbps connection.

    There needs to be a drive to provide last mile connectivity to the people who need it, and whereas Social media and Viral videos are fine, I die a little inside when I see essential public agencies, which deal with health, governance and education, which could get a significant boost in relevance and impact with minimal inter-connectivity not connected to the Internet whereas Campus students are using most of their institutions bandwidth to do social networking.

    We cannot afford to wait for it to dawn upon those with the ability to make the needed changes, we need to get of Facebook and Youtube and push for the changes that we want implemented.

    • Guru on

      True, true. Last mile connections will always be the bane of end users. While alot of work is being done to lay last mile connections, be they wireless or fibre, the end user has yet to “taste” these fruits. I feel frustrated when I see what the ISPs are peddling is pure lies. What is even worse is those with the technical know how to enlighten the masses, are for the most part quiet. To put the last nail on the coffin, the indutsry regulator, CCK, does not seem to be doing much. I would have expected them to have run benchmarking tests on the ISPs before and after the fibre optic cables connectivity. I expect them to tell us who is delivering what. I think its their mandate to be actively invloved in the industry, and watch out for consumers. Personally I do not have the capacity to objectively measure the actual speeds delivered, I can only do a poll on my blog. What is CCK doing?

  2. zak on

    Dear Gentelmen
    We are Fiber Optic cable system provider and seeking Fiber optic cabling projects in Kenya .We are welcomed to your comments about the need of FO in Kenya
    Zak ASCI
    Telecom Anatolia Fiber optic cabling systems
    Ankara Turkey
    0090 5065091411

  3. Macharia Celestine on

    Certified Fiber Optic Training Course, 10-13 August 2010, eDevelopment Centre, Nairobi,Kenya.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: