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Fibre Optic in Rift Valley: A highway without cars!

Fibre Optic in Rift Valley: A highway without cars!

It is pointless to have a smooth highway which has no cars. No cars means that no drivers, no passengers, no goods transported to and fro, no toll stations, no traffic police, no business people selling stuff by the roadside, and therefore no economic sense whatsoever for having that road constructed in the first place.

That is where we are with this Fibre Optic Excitement.

Kenya Data Networks, Kenya’s largest private data carrier and infrastructure provider is set to launch the fibre optic network in Nakuru, the capital for the greater Rift Valley. And as expected, many of us who understand the implications of fibre as opposed to satellite are elated beyond words. We simply cannot wait. In fact, we cannot contain the excitement of a cheaper, faster, and in-my-bed-access to the internet. I would love to think that all businessmen and women in Nakuru are as elated as I and some business colleagues are. However, the reality that confronts you here is baffling to say the least.

A face-value observation confirmed by an in-depth analysis shows that most business people here understand fibre optic as an improvement in the speed of sending emails, PERIOD.

The Emotions

It was with great sadness and embarrassment that I watched a whole minister embarrass himself and his government when he said that now that the fibre optic cable has finally landed, the backlog of files in government offices could finally be computerized. If I was his personal assistant, I would have whispered in his ear (and consequently probably loose my job), “Actually sir, you only need computers for that. We’ve had those for many years now.” That represents the tragedy of this whole fibre optic excitement that we have going in the country. KDN and many other stakeholders in this fibre optic network have their work cut out for them in terms of getting takers beyond Nairobi and Mombasa. I even dare say that the easiest part was getting the fibre to Kenya and laying it down across the country. The hard work begins now.

The Reality

The reality in Kenya and especially in Nakuru (where I spend half my time) is that we do not have enough people on the road for a smoother and better road to conjure up any real excitement. The launch of this Cable in Nakuru targets the business community and the first question that comes to mind is, for what? From what I know and I am well placed to know this; is that not many businesses in Nakuru are leveraging the internet for anything. Few businesses have websites and even those are archaic looking websites that only serve as extensions of their brochures. What most of them do is send emails but let’s face it, you do not need 6Mbps to send an email.  So with this information super highway coming, what we have are businesses to which the potholed filled satellite highway still had excess capacity. If they could not even fill that, what will radically change with this high-speed internet?

The Way Forward

So with Kenya Data Network set to launch here in Nakuru, they must realize that they cannot do it alone. It is not enough to build a road; getting people to use it is a challenge they must embrace. With a smooth and better highway, there is a case to make why people should use it. By alluding to faster travel, smoother rides, less mechanical problems, cheaper fuel consumption, among many others, no sane business person will shy away from these roads. And because it makes economic sense to them, they will buy the cars, hire the drivers, and in the process create a multiplier effect that will even see the social media chaps like me get a share of the resultant pie. This is the case that KDN needs to make during its launch here.

KDN and the whole rest of them have built the roads, now they need to get people to buy cars, drivers to drive these cars, passengers to travel, roadside sellers to sell maize and yoghurt, traffic police to monitor the roads, toll stations to collect revenue etc. All these are spinoffs of a good highway. Inviting all these interested parties to the launch only serves to better KDN’s chances of getting takers.

My personal wish is to see a strong pool of developers emerge in Kenya. Young Kenyans need to see this as their chance to finally drastically shoot down the unemployment figures by being all those things which will spinoff from this fibre optic revolution. So go out there and develop API’s, customize others for the Kenyan market, develop websites, create web-based solutions, tackle internet crimes, provide social media solutions and any other services that companies are willing to pay for.

What are your thoughts?