Tana River residents will no longer have to climb trees to make calls

In this day and age of super-fast internet and instant communication, it is hard to imagine that some people are still shut out from the world. Yet this has been the case for residents of remote parts of Tana River County in Kenya.

In an area referred to as Titila, people still walk for more than 35 kilometres to get a mobile network. Yet even when they reach the network spot, the signals are poor and they are forced to climb trees if they are to get a chance to communicate.

“A good mobile network is 80km away,” says Adhan Nuur. “For us to even access weak connection, we must go half the journey and at a specific place to communicate.”

The long journey to the location of the network is a money-minting venture for some youth who are hired to make the trip. The villagers give them a long list of contacts for people to be reached and what messages to pass.

It costs Sh100 to send the messenger to the mobile network spot. The trouble is that once you get to this point, you may find that the network is off and you have to wait for it to come on.

Once the network is on, the messenger starts his task which is by no means easy. He calls the individuals on his list one by one, passing the respective messages and recording on paper the responses which he will to pass to the intended recipients.    

  In case of a medical emergency, for instance, they are unable to access an ambulance as urgently as they want. The residents are just resigned to fate.

“It takes about three days for an ambulance to get here. If the sick person is fortunate enough, they live, if not, they die and that’s God’s will,” says Fatime Godana, a midwife.

Others areas cut off from the world in the county are Wolesoreya, Haroresa and Lakole where the majority of the population are herders.

The tribulations these people face are however set to change. The Communications Authority of Kenya has rolled out the second phase of the mobile connectivity project targeting 101 unserved sub-locations across 19 counties.

In Tana River County, four sub-locations will benefit from the mobile connectivity. These areas include Titila, Kamaguru, Oldowan, and Walesorhea will each host a communication mast.

 ICT principal administrative secretary Erick Kiraithe told Afcacia that the project in the four sub-locations will serve more than 160,000 people, covering more than 17,000 square kilometres of Tana River County.

Mr Kiraithe said the project seeks to connect the people in these remote corners of Kenya to the rest of the world.

 “Our main aim is to connect them to the rest of the world,” he said, “by enabling the network to start with and thereafter we shall look into the speed of the internet with our partners.”

The areas will be connected with Third Generation Network. Service providers such as Safaricom, Airtel, and Telkom will later be on-boarded to complete the network circuit.

County Executive for ICT Mihammed Dube has welcomed the project, noting that it is critical to the development of the county.

The county, Mr Dube said, has partnered with Huawei to enhance use of the internet and digitise some services.

 “We have waited for this (mobile network) for more than 30 years. It will make a huge deference in our growth and development,” he said, terming the project long overdue, adding that more than 200 youth have been trained on basic digital marketing skills.

In the first phase of the implementation of the USF, CAK connected 884 public secondary schools across the 47 counties to the internet, two of which are in Tana River County.

The authority connected with mobile network 78 sub-locations, covering 330,342 people spread across 15 counties.

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