Archive for the ‘bandwidth’ Tag

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.

Specifically;

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.

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Review of Fibre Optic Cable in East Africa — Part 1

The much-talked about digital divide has left a yawning gap between the Eastern African countries and the rest of the world. A lot has been done by national telecoms companies, mostly former lethargic government-owned entities. They have kept us connected to the world using satellite links. Though stable, we have to contend with high costs. Higher bandwidths usually means more money shelled out. The cost of satellite links is high, and their reliability and bandwidth not the best. We shall retain the links as back up, since even under sea cables get broken or cut by deep sea trawlers, if not under sea quakes. Time has now come for us to cross the chasm and leap into the information superhighway. Hello world!

Not to be left behind, the Kenyan government, inspired by a growing economy hungry for information has spurred growth in the telecoms sector like never before. For once we have an enabling and responsive political climate. This has meant the government can now attract top-notch professionals to steer the ship across the digital divide. The Ministry of Information and Communications is now very visible and its PS is very vocal and energetic on matters fibre optic cable connection to Mombasa. The Kenya ICT Board on its part is the vehicle driving the ICT dream all the way to my village. I hope my people shall appreciate all these efforts.

We have many home grown companies that are complementing Telkom Kenya’s efforts to connect us. Telkom on their part are now a leaner and more efficient outfit, thanks to a restructuring and eventual sale to France Telecom. Their service provision has gone a notch higher, inspired no less by emerging start ups hungry for their business. Invariably, the battle for the fibre cable connection has gone a notch higher thanks to the new entrants.

First off the block was Telkom who laid a fibre between Mombasa City and Nairobi City. This was unprecedented, and Kenya Data Networks (KDN)matched them, with a similar link. The two went on to expand the fibre mesh within the cities and now it is common to have lit fibre in your door step. Not to be left behind, Jamii Telecom took the battle to the streets of Nairobi with their KES. 300 million Nairobi Metro Fibre. This mesh aims to bring fibre-to-the-home (FTTH). Lastly the Kenyan government through its Fibre Optic National Network (FONN) is laying fibre to the entire country, connecting villages and erstwhile remote places to the hubs in Nairobi and the landing spot in Mombasa. The Kenyan map has never looked better.

The missing link is Mombasa to the world …. but not to worry. We have two competing cable teams, TEAMS (The East African Marine System) and EASSY (East African Submarine Systems). The first, TEAMS, is a joint venture between the Govt of Kenya and Etisalat, the UAE national telecom operator. We should be hooked via Fujairah, UAE by Q1 of 2009. The Alcatel-Lucent cable laying ship is working round the clock to ensure this dream is realized. The other, Eassy, is an effort by the telecoms companies to get a share of the pie by laying a submarine cable all the way to Durban, South Africa. The more the merrier!

In part 2 we shall look at what all this cable being laid means for the Kenyan people and economy.