Just like air and water, internet is a natural resource that should be harnessed for the benefit of the community.
This is the assertion by Community Networks working around increasing network penetration into the underserved communities in Kenya.
At least 20 people drawn from seven Community Networks across the country are currently engaged in a five-day forum in Kisumu.
The forum is hosted by African Higher Education Research Institute (Aheri), one of the Community Networks based in Kisumu.
Speaking during the forum, Robert Owino, Executive Director of AheriNet noted that experience has shown that internet empowers the communities and improves their livelihoods.
Covid-19 and internet connectivity
Owino said the entity has been penetrating the areas with low internet infrastructure, and connecting the communities from as low as 70 per cent lower than the commercial prices.
“We view internet as a public resource meant for community development as opposed to the accepted version that internet is supported to be used by the commercial entities to make money,” said Owino.
According to Owino, Covid-19 exposed the need to have internet communities, as many people were directed to work from home.
He noted that with the growth of digital economy, people buy and sell goods and services through the internet, hence the need to ensure the communities are part of the transformation.
His assertions were echoed by Risper Akinyi, Gender and Community Engagement Coordinator at Tunapanda Net based in Kibera, Nairobi, who said there is need to strengthen the pillars of community networks.
“We use Human Centred Design approach to understand the internet need of the people we serve, and then provide for them a product that answers to their needs,” she said.
Association of Progressing Communications (APC) has been creating enabling environment for the Community Networks through providing seed funding, capacity building trainings, and policy and regulation advocacy supporting CNs.
“There are not so many organizations supporting CNs and we come in to fill this gap,” said Josephine Miliza, Africa Policy Coordinator for APC