Kwale County is this month launching free street Wi-Fi in Baraza Park and Ukunda and an online services portal, KwalePay, following an investment project by Liquid Telecom in high speed Internet to the county, which is one of Kenya’s poorest.
The county is launching KwalePay as a one-stop online gateway to all the county government’s services, meaning residents can get business licences, pay land rent and access council services from their mobile phones, home computers and cybercafés.
The new Internet services from Kwale County Government follow Liquid Telecom Kenya’s delivery of a 25Mbps fibre network connecting the county government headquarters and regional offices, and servicing Kwale’s new street Wi-Fi and digitalised services.
“The county’s Revenue Management System (RMS) will enable residents do all payments online, cutting long queues at the headquarters, and enhancing revenue collection and transparency,” said Juma Kingi the County ICT Director.
“In this, ICT is removing the human interface from revenue collection. We have developed a payment solution and integrated an SMS platform that will send reminders to residents to pay their renewals fees before their due dates, in a system we believe will now double our revenue collection,” said Kingi.
Liquid Telecom has also installed a Wide Area Network (WAN) for the county government, connecting its headquarters with its regional offices in Msambweni, Matuga, Lunga Lunga and Kinango via a 36km-radius network.
The installations now see Kwale join 39 counties across Kenya that have rolled out digitalised systems offering their services online, but the county is among the first few – notably including Nakuru and Kiambu – to additionally develop free street Wi-Fi.
“Our aim is to make county services accessible on mobile phones and in grassroot cybercafés, saving the residents time and money spent travelling to our headquarters. This will cut out long journeys, for instance, from Lunga Lunga to headquarters saving residents about Sh440 on transport alone,” said Anthony Mwamunga the Kwale County Government Chief of Staff.
The new network has also meant county staff are now able to use staff emails, where previously they had only personal Gmail or Yahoo accounts. “The county is also working on installing a call extension service across its offices to cut down its mobile phone calls costs,” said Kingi.
The development of high-speed Internet in Kwale has additionally opened up the county to new business opportunities and enabled residents to access services previously only available in Kenya’s major cities and towns.
Equity Bank, for instance, has launched 231 bank agencies across the county, in a move that has created jobs and saved further costs for residents, who are now able to access and transfer money with ease.
“We genuinely believe in the role that Internet connectivity plays in developing the economic prospects of a region through job creation and greater ease of doing business. This has been seen all around the world. But taking these services into some of Kenya’s must unequal counties is a mission of which we are very proud, and one that we shall continue to pursue with vigour,” said Adil Youssefi, CEO of Liquid Telecom Kenya.