Regulator targets to increase Universal Service Fund to Kshs 4 billion by year-end

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The telcoms industry regulator has already collected Kshs 2.6 billion as part of operators’ contribution to the Universal Service Fund and targets the increase the kitty to Kshs 4 billion by end of this year.

This was said by Eng. Francis Wangusi, Director General, and Communications Authority during a press briefing held recently at CA Headquarters.

“We still urge all the licensed operators who provide services in the various communications market segments to contribute to this fund so that we can hit the 70 billion mark to close gaps in communication. Currently the fund only has Kshs. 2.6 billion and if we go on like this it will take us a while to raise the funds. We are targeting to raise up to 4 billion by end of this year,” said Wangusi.

Wangusi also pointed out that the fund was set to be used under a framework policy adding out that during the roll out of the network in the marginalised areas would have a key focus on the main contributors. He also pointed out that the Universal Service Advisory Council (USAC) board will oversee and provide strategic policy guidance in the implementation of the Universal Service Fund (USF).

In Kenya currently around 1,600 locations have access gaps despite the rapid growth of ICT services in the country, the disparity in availability and access to telecommunications services between rural and urban areas continues to widen.

The Fund will play a key role in subsidizing the cost of ICT infrastructure roll out and expansion in these un-served and underserved areas. The Fund is primarily financed through mandatory contributions by licensed operators and the Communications Authority and any other complementary sources.

The Authority in the financial year 2013/2014 injected Ksh1 Billion into the Fund as seed money and has collected a total of Ksh45million out of the expected Kshs 800 Million from communication service providers.

Over the years CA has partnered with various institutions to carry out pilot projects in several rural parts of the country to facilitate access to ICT services. The Chairman of the Board of Directors, Ngene Gituku, had stated earlier during the inauguration of Universal Service Advisory that the Authority carried out several studies on access gaps in particular the National ICT Survey and the ICT Access Gap study in a bid to better understand the ICT environment in the country.

The Chairman further said that a USF Framework that was developed by Management and has already been discussed by the Board and it provides a mechanism for managing and administering the Fund as well as outlining the criteria for project selection. The Chairman asked Management to urgently complete the development of the Universal Service Fund regulations to conform to the enacted Kenya Information and Communications (Amendment) Act, 2013.

Current projects proposed under the USF as listed on the Communications Commission of Kenya website include school-based ICT centres, community ICT access points, ICTs for people with disabilities, digitisation of secondary school curriculum, computerisation of health centres and Research and Development.

The fund was set up close to six years ago to help boost telecommunication infrastructure in the country’s remote areas which are often not considered to be financially viable. Mobile network operators and internet service providers are required by law to remit 0.5 per cent of their annual turnover.

The fund was established under Section 843 of the Kenya Communications Amendment Act of 2009 which was to be administered by the Communications Authority (CA). The objective was to support the widespread access to, support capacity building and promote innovation in information and communication technology services.

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