Expanding access to affordable internet
Access to the internet is a key driver of economic development. However, in Kenya, rural customers tend to be unserved or underserved by existing broadband provision and access costs can be prohibitively high. With only 15% of rural households having access to the internet at home, there is a significant ‘digital gap’ which needs to be bridged if people living in rural areas are to harness the benefits of internet access for education, healthcare and business development.
Mawingu Networks Ltd (Mawingu) currently operates across 22 counties of Kenya, delivering rural internet access via solar-plus-battery powered radio towers which it builds, operates and maintains. Mawingu also carries out ‘last-mile’ connections, establishing public wi-fi hotspots which can be accessed on a Pay-As-You-Go basis, and delivering affordable fixed connectivity for domestic, business and public-sector premises (e.g. schools and healthcare facilities) via rooftop aerials and wi-fi router equipment. With support from InfraCo Africa, Mawingu plans to expand its services to more counties.
Kenya’s ICT sector is expected to contribute up to 9.24% of GDP by 2025 and the Kenyan government’s “Girls in ICT initiative” has been established to encourage young women and girls to join the sector. Mawingu will actively seek to employ women in technical and professional roles as the business grows. The company will also engage with women and girls in rural communities to ensure that they are equipped with the digital skills training and opportunities required to make best use of internet access when it is installed.
Once operating at scale, it is anticipated that Mawingu will attract further private sector finance to expand its offering in other countries in the region.