Telcos to pay more into ICT access fund for marginalised areas

By: LILIAN OCHIENG

Telecom firms will need to dig deeper into their pockets to fund a Sh100 billion programme aimed at providing ICT services in marginalised areas.

Canadian firm Intelecon Research and Consultancy Ltd, which is carrying out a new study on ICT access gaps on behalf of the Communications Authority (CA), said operators have so far contributed only Sh2.9 billion against the target.

The firm will deliver to the CA the results of the study by February 2016, when the programme is expected to be formally launched.

The study, which is benchmarked against best practices in Uganda, Tanzania and Pakistan, will help the CA to implement the Universal Service Fund (USF) that aims to close the ICT access gap in the country.

Intelecon is expected to develop an interactive online portal showing where the gaps exist as well as determine the exact cost of rolling out the services.

“USF levies will total Sh6.9 billion to Sh10 billion in the next 10 years,” stated the Intelecon Associate Director Andrew Dymond. “The programme is implemented under a five-year road map that will prioritise projects to balance income with expenditure.”

CLOSING SHORTFALLS

CA Director-General Francis Wangusi said the levies are not bringing in enough money and he is exploring ways of increasing operators’ contributions to the fund.

The operators contribute 0.5 per cent of their revenues to the fund, which is administered by government officials.

Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom Kenya have been demanding that the study be hastened so its findings can be used to guide the regulator and the telcoms on how to use the fund for maximum benefit. They also want to be involved in managing the fund.

Meanwhile, the CA is also looking at closing shortfalls in collecting the levies. The regulator wants to partner with operators in setting up base stations in marginalised areas.

Operators are expected to start earning money from the programme three years after the project is fully implemented. They also have an opportunity to start bidding for contracts to provide ICT services in identified remote areas.

Intelon has identified schools, clinics and villages as priority points for connections in marginalised areas. Services will be deployed at marked points so they can be tapped by the rest of the residents.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION