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Building Africa’s digital future – The East African Business Times

By Caroline Theuri and Brian Yatich

As a important enabler of the financial system, the web has played an important position in accelerating economic progress and creating jobs in a number of nations across the globe. Small businesses particularly have harnessed the internet to overcome conventional obstacles corresponding to lack of entry to correct schooling or expertise. It has additionally aided in exporting and transfer of services across national and worldwide markets.

Nevertheless, with this promising risk, Web access in Kenya remains a key challenge, coupled by poor infrastructure and low levels of penetration.

In response to the World Bank, with extra web access, Kenya has the potential of closing the digital divide and to decrease its employment charges by creating extra job opportunities for individuals with digital expertise. The 2019 Financial Survey reported that there have been 840,600 jobs created in 2018, down from 897,000 created in 2017.

However there are hindrances that make it unimaginable for individuals in Kenya not to have access to the internet. These embrace insufficient infrastructure, excessive internet costs and power interruptions.

Previous to the touchdown of submarine cables within the coastal town of Mombasa in 2009, the nation’s only internet gateway was by means of satellite links. All Internet visitors had to be routed from Kenya to internet gateways in Europe then back.

But with the country now benefiting from an in depth fiber network country-wide, the demand has grown significantly.

Slowly, Kenya’s telecommunications market has undergone considerable modifications within the wake of elevated competitors, improved worldwide connectivity and speedy developments within the cellular market. However with all these developments, connectivity nonetheless remains pricey.

Pan-African telecoms Group, Liquid Telecom, has been actively navigating the Telco sector and is on the forefront championing for using internet to ensure universal and reasonably priced entry turns into a actuality.

The Mauritius-headquartered group has targeted deeply on connecting all the things by adapting to the Web of Things (IoT), concentrating on enterprises, wholesalers, Web Service Providers (ISPS’) as well as connecting directly to shoppers with their high velocity knowledge network.

The firm primarily started off by delivering satellite and voice providers and has since expanded its fiber community which now focuses on bringing down the price of connectivity with IOT.

In the present day, it has laid a fiber community of 5,000 km spanning around the nation and related 41 out of 47 counties with the high-speed web because it got here to Kenya.

“We have a vision to connect all of Africa, which is something that we have done. We have built fiber networks, data centers and we have also been able to make acquisitions of other assets that are there,” says Ben Roberts, the Chief Technical Officer (CTO) at Liquid Telecom.

He explains that they have prolonged their network via partnerships, bringing first time terrestrial connectivity between nations in Africa, doubling the velocity of knowledge with a aim to keep Intra-African knowledge within Africa.

In Kenya, Roberts says, IoT has been relevant because the nation is a vital connectivity hub in the Japanese Africa region.

“Since we started operations in Kenya, we have connected Nairobi to Tanzania as well as Somalia and also extended the same network to DRC. We are currently building fiber network in Juba, South Sudan, which is currently only connected by satellite and radio network”, he says.

The company has been capable of make investments extra knowledge centers in Nairobi which makes it attainable to draw more internet visitors to it. It has knowledge centres in Mombasa, however can also be planning to produce other centres in Kisumu, Nakuru and Nanyuki.

In Western Kenya, for example, the corporate partnered with fish farmers to connect ten pilot-phase sensors that monitor water temperature and pH values in ponds, by way of the assistance of IoT.

The sensors ship info and feeding instructions to farmers via an Android and iOS app referred to as Aquarech, developed by the Kisumu innovation know-how improvement hub LakeHub and developers Pinovate.

The programme plans to equip 5,000 western Kenyan fish farmers with the sensors and app by the top of this yr. There are additionally other disruptive initiatives rolled out by Liquid Telecom in numerous sectors, including agriculture, schooling, wildlife safety and health, to assist change livelihoods by means of IoT.

Based on Roberts, Kenya is an okay place to do business as far as the telecoms business is worried. The country, he says, has a strong regulatory framework which allows some degree of competition.

Ad Liquid Telecom’s aggressive regional enlargement banks on such sound environments to spearhead progress.

The firm has constructed knowledge centersAfrica and connectivity hubs in Japanese and Southern Africa, including in Burundi, Japanese Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Somalia and South Africa, to enhance internet velocity by means of IoT. General, Liquid Telecom has installed close to 70,000 kilometers of fiber network throughout 13 nations.

One of the largest achievements of Liquid Telecom is unveiling of a neutral service knowledge middle renamed East African Knowledge Middle. But lack of infrastructure in most nations in Africa will slow down the uptake of such new merchandise for the company.

Deploying IOT

Using Sigfox IOT Network, Liquid Telecom is about to help Kenyan authorities’s Massive 4 economic pillars (Agenda), by connecting sensors with a variety of IoT purposes across all sectors, including agriculture and fishing, transport and logistics, utilities and power, heavy industries, retail, and banking and insurance coverage. It’s going to even be used for sensible cities tasks and in wildlife conservation.

With unrivalled fiber community and strategically situated knowledge centres, Liquid telecom earlier this yr announced availability of Microsoft Azure across its pan-African network. This, in line with Roberts, means it brings cloud-optimised connectivity offering the benefits of low latency, high capacity and resiliency to companies across Africa.

A lot of the partnerships that liquid telecom has secured have been around connectivity which has enabled the corporate to finish the first fiber community from Cape Town to Cairo.

“Our cloud system is extremely secure and it is not transmitted in open text and you know security is all about people, process and technology. And we are working to provide our clients the most secure technology,” he says.

Roberts says the company, in partnership with the government-owned Kenya Electrical energy Transmission company (KETRACO), has rolled out its 5,000 kilometre fiber community to new locations and new nations. KETRACO is rolling out spine energy strains, which is extending fiber networks into new places and nations, reminiscent of Ethiopia.

“We have over 10,000 different companies in Kenya connected over the fiber backbone network and the opportunities for IoT are there for both big and small companies from various sectors in the country, including those in government,” Roberts says.

“There are people who use data centres in Kenya, from those in banks and offices, there are also opportunities for IoT in education, we supply 80 percent of the fiber network for Kenyan universities.”

Late final month, Liquid Telecom chosen Nokia to deploy a number of 100G DWDM/OTN channel network in East Africa in a bid to upgrade their present fiber community to help OTN/DWDM know-how with an preliminary community capability of 500G.

“This will result in a faster and more reliable connection along the route from the Indian Ocean to data centers in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and neighboring countries,” the CTO says.

Challenges

Being a brand new business in Africa, building the inland fiber infrastructure has not been straightforward for both the corporate and within the nations they function. Roberts recollects situations once they have had their fiber reduce because of the quite a few infrastructural developments happening in a number of the African nations.

The firm has been continually hampered by street reconstruction and dual carriage approach activities at present being undertaken by governments in numerous nations.  One other challenge is the excise obligation that was introduced last yr by the federal government, where the Finance Act introduced a further tax on voice, internet and knowledge providers.

“The duty has resulted in putting a strain on the consumer. Competition is also another challenge, which has resulted in the merger of a few telecommunication companies, such as that between Airtel-Telkom Kenya earlier on this year,” he notes, clarifying that such are developments that have stored their company on its toes.

A deficit in expertise is among the important challenges that Liquid Telecom faces as it expands into the continent, Roberts says, referring to the inadequate technological expertise within the 21st century, primarily in areas reminiscent of Artificial Intelligence (AI), cloud know-how, knowledge science and machine learning.

To deal with this deficit, the corporate has entered into partnerships with a couple of different corporations, reminiscent of Microsoft, to offer the corporate Cloud providers, mandatory for tapping individuals into cloud know-how.

“We are also working with Microsoft Azure, where we have been helping startups to get into the cloud, giving startups credit, helping them develop their applications non-free and then later on they can be paid for,” says Roberts.

Low uptake of IoT

Despite the developments, there’s been a low uptake of IoT greatest practices in main and secondary faculties. To counter this, Roberts says, Liquid Telecom and the Communication Authority of Kenya (CAK) have related five megabyte per second of internet to 300 main and secondary faculties out of a projected figure of 1,000 by the Universal Fund.

From a much bigger perspective, Africa has seen mega shifts in technological advances, in what the CTO refers as “decolonization of Africa.” These shifts embrace fiber community, voice, knowledge providers, in addition to decreased value of internet providers.

“The company (Liquid Telecom) is also trying to address the digital divide that exists in the rural and urban areas caused by the disparity between internet speeds and pricing,” he concludes.

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