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Fast internet connection a luxury in rural Kenya

05 November 2014, 10:20

Nairobi - It was a simple exercise that was supposed to take jobseeker Grace Muyale less than two minutes, but she did not accomplish it in three hours.

Muyale, who lives in Busia, was applying for a job at an non-governmental organization in Nairobi. The firm had asked candidates to send their curriculum vitae (CV) and scanned certificates through email.

The 26-year-old typed her CV at a cybercafe at a market center in the border district and scanned copies of her certificates.

But when time came for her to mail the 5 mega byte (MB) document, things did not work.

"The internet connection was too slow that I could not attach the documents. The cybercafe operator informed me to give it time. I waited for an hour and then tried again but this did not work," Muyale recounted in a telephone interview on Monday.

And all this time, the cybercafe operator who uses a modem was billing her 0.011 U.S. dollar per minute.

Also read: Beware open Wi-Fi networks

"The charges had reached 2.8 dollars when I gave up. The problem was the deadline was the next day."

Muyale, a social work graduate, had to spend 2.2 dollars the next day to travel to Busia town to send the document. And as fate would have it, she was not even called for an interview.

Her plight is shared by many people seeking internet services in rural areas in the East African nation. With poor infrastructure, faster internet connection is a luxury for residents of rural Kenya.

Internet speeds in the East African nation average 1 mega byte per second (Mbps) or less. However, with faster growth of 3G network, this is rising to 2Mbps. But the high speed is mainly enjoyed in Nairobi, and other big urban centers.

Official statistics show that Kenya has 13.9 million internet subscriptions and 22.3 million users who access the service through fixed fibre optic cables, mobile phones and satellite, among other means.

But these modes are not fast, which is why the Communication Authority of Kenya has been advocating for adoption of broadband service that is able to transfer large amounts of data at high speed.

At June, there were 2.9 million mobile broadband subscriptions in the East African nation, up from 2.3 million in the previous quarter. Other fixed or wireless broadband subscriptions stood at 90,000.

"Internet connection is so poor in rural areas. Many times you have to wait for hours or even days for it to come and when it does, it is too slow. Sometimes it takes me up to three hours to attach a photo and sent because the internet speed is low," said journalist Jubat Adow, who is based in Garissa in northern Kenya.

With download speeds of less than 1Mbps, Adow, a regular internet user as he is studying an on-line degree course finds it hard to do anything meaningful on-line, including accessing school work.

Bernard Mwaso of Edell IT Solution in Nairobi describes internet connection in rural areas as pathetic due to lack of infrastructure.

"Most of the time when I travel to my rural home in Nyanza to visit my parents, I forget about the internet until I return to Nairobi."

But the good thing, he noted, is that there are deliberate efforts to expand the fibre optic cables by service providers to rural Kenya as there is huge potential. Pay TV companies are also spreading satellite internet, alongside their core services.

Economic data show that internet connectivity contributes to 2. 9 percent of Kenya's gross domestic product. In 2012, Kenya was ranked as the third African country with highest internet speeds.

 - Xinhua

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