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Championing last mile connectivity: Association of Community Networks in Kenya

Bridging the digital divide in Kenya requires a collective effort, starting with innovative, adaptive, and inclusive policy regulations, collaboration amongst industry players, organizational management, and institutional funding. Locally, community networks have proven to be a vital means for bridging the digital divide. They are decentralized, community-owned, and community-operated telecommunication infrastructures that provide accessible, dependable, and locally relevant connections.

The government’s digital superhighway master plan must be complimented with do-it-yourself networks such as community networks for the successful implementation and the satisfaction of the beneficiaries of the digital services offered. Community networks can perfectly complement digital hubs that the Ministry of Information, Communication, and Digital Economy has been inaugurating in various parts of the country.

As a result, the government has recognized community networks’ role in bridging the digital divide. This is evident through their actions such as establishing the Licensing and Shared Spectrum Framework for Community Networks and its relevant agencies’ participation in the recently-held inaugural National Summit of Community Networks in Kenya.

However, the vibrant growth witnessed in the community network space in Kenya can largely be attributed to the sheer dedication of the pioneering community networks – such as Tanda (formerly TunapandaNET) and AheriNet – in preaching the gospel and capacity-building new entrants – such as ourselves.  

To catapult the growth to even greater heights, community networks in the country formed the Association for Community Networks in Kenya (ACNKe) to represent their interests in various capacities. Over the past 2 days, the association held a workshop that was attended by our very own Blaise Amani at the African Advanced Level Telecommunications Institute (AFRALTI), to draft its strategic plan for the next three years. 

The plan aims to serve as the campus bearing for community networks’ general activities within the Kenyan space. During the workshop, the representatives from various community networks in the country engaged themselves in engaging sessions and group activities with attempts to come up with a mission and vision for the association, analyze the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of the association through SWOT analysis, develop the objectives and actionable plans, and setting SMART goals.

The workshop was facilitated by Viscar Industrial Capacity Limited. Other notable experts and industry players who attended the workshop include Charles Juma (Digital Access Programme Manager and Advisor, British High Commission) and John Walubengo (Trustee, Kictanet). 

In addition to ourselves, other community networks represented during the workshop include Tanda CN (Kibera, Nairobi), Oasis Mathare (Mathare, Nairobi), Ateker CN (Lodwar, Turkana), Dunia Moja CN (Mtondia, Kilifi), Kijiji Yeetu (Ugunja, Siaya), ALIN (Sipili, Laikipia), Action Pour Le Progres (Kakuma, Turkana), and Athi Community Network (Maua, Meru).

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