Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Cellphones Catapult Rural Africa to 21st Century

Cellphones Catapult Rural Africa to 21st Century

This story will appear in tomorrow's The New York Times. If you are interestedin reading it, you must access it in the next week or so, as access is free during that time - free registration required. After that time, the story goes into the paid archives.

How does the content of the story relate to Sagam? Is cellphone service available in Sagam? How much does it cost? Is there competition? If not in Sagam today, are there plans for it to be offered? When? What happens between now and then?


Odera said...

Mobile phones are readily available and have catapulted Sagam village to a copletely new era. Today, one can reach Sagam from anywhere in the world through this technolgy and the reception is excellent from almost any point in the terrain and steadily improvng with time.

The two national mobile phone networks in Kenya, Safaricom and Celltel are both accessible in the village since 2001. Safaricom also initiated a kiosk cell phone retail business that cells airtime and allows people to pay and make calls. These are run as small businesses by individuals.

Although the cost of owning a cell phone has fallen considerably in the last four years (the receiver,chip and a new line can be obtained for $50), the charges per call are still rather expensive (nearly twenty US cents per minute at the very least)and limits use of this technology. Most villagers therefore use their phone for receiving calls only. SMS is also available and is free to all subscribers. It is therefore preferred by most people in the village. The one limitation of cell phones is that it does no provide internet connections which are only available through land lines.

The first modern land line in Sagam was installed in 1998, thanks to Sagam Community Hospital which paid dearly for two lines ($1000); one was reserved for hospital use and the other went to a public booth. Demand for services was however very high and after six years of lobbying, the monopoly Kenya Telecommunication Corporation recently intalled a new telephone exchange with more than 150 lines. Although the land lines, which are considerably cheaper are already over subscribed, quality this service remains extremely poor. The lines are dead most of the time and not being broadband, internet access is at a snail's pace. This has adversely affected development of IT in the village and remains an urgent challenge as satellite access is not yet available.
Liberalization of the land phone business should introduce competion and is probabaly the way forward for solving the perennila problem with land phones in Kenya.

Terry Maguire said...

It would be valuable to learn from Telkom Kenya exactly what services it plans for Sagam, and when. I realize this is often difficult, but technology offers options that are more and more appealing for customers. It is up to customers to demand the service that they wish to have!

Odera said...

Ouma Ojenge, Chairman of the Telecommunication sub-committee of Rabuor-Sinaga Area Development Trust writes...

Things are moving on and at least the telephones are working in the village. The expansion of land lines is in progress and you will be informed of any new development. Wi-FI is still not available but is not impossible. There is no reason why we should not rival India in this area with the right policies and determination