CA seeks additional funding for universal service fund

Attaining a nationwide coverage for telecommunications services will cost much more than the resources in place to meet the course according to the Communications Authority (CA).

The Universal Service Fund (USF) initiative that serves to reach this purpose is currently starved off Sh4.4 billion with the regulator struggling to achieve nationwide coverage.

In the realization of the prevailing financial deficit, the CA has outlined plans to engage a number of different stakeholders including individuals, foreign governments and donors in an effort to integrate them into the USF driven undertaking.

Speaking during a stakeholders meeting on Monday, Universal Service Advisory Council Chairperson Catherine Ngahu said the authority is considering the incorporation of alternative funding mechanisms to attain the required funding for the program.

“We are looking to partner with other stakeholders who are interested in the initiative so as to improve the speed at which we raise funds and implement projects. This takes time, even the government is not able to raise all the money they want,” she said.

According to the industry regulator, it will cost close to Sh250 billion until 2023 to fund the kitty and deliver on improving connectivity across the country.

The CA said there exists quite a number of other challenges affecting the implementation of the fund’s mandate including insecurity in marginalized regions in the country and the in-accessibility of remote areas due to a combination of depressed infrastructure and extreme weather elements.

Moreover, a presidential directive to handover the funding unit to the Office of the Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) for use in the cybercrime war has presented its set of challenges to the CA.

The authority has however outlined that discussions are underway to ensure that the resolution of the matter.

Communication Authority chairman Ngene Gituku said he was confident that his institution would overcome the prevailing challenges and reach the USF desired goal of national wide coverage for telecommunications services in the shortest time possible.

“This is long journey but I think that everybody is geared to making sure that we have access to the entire country at the end of the day. However, there will be issues. Initially we were taking of an approximation of 70 years but now we see it may not take that long but it won’t be easy either,” he said.

National wide coverage of telecommunications services will mean reaching out to the close to 2.7 million citizens who are currently underserved lacking even the basic voice services.