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Mawingu: TV White Space

When NetHope and the USAID Global Broadband and Innovations (GBI) Program stepped in to Mawingu, Kenya, the goal was to connect rural Kenyans to Internet and electricity in an affordable way.

In most of Kenya, broadband penetration is at global lows; nearly 72% of Kenyans are without internet and some even lack basic electricity, affecting the quality of education, politics, healthcare and everything in between. Living without Internet access is usually a factor of expense.

When NetHope and the USAID Global Broadband and Innovations (GBI) Program stepped in to Mawingu, Kenya, the goal was to connect rural Kenyans to Internet and electricity in an affordable way. The chosen technology? An often-forgotten, highly-affordable technology called TV white space (TVWS) that takes advantage of unused spectrum bands previously used for television broadcasting at a rate of just a few dollars per month.

Bridging the digital divide and power divide in rural Kenya makes a world of difference for people living off-grid in rural areas of the country. Where once there was isolation and stagnation, people are now able to pursue a multitude of new opportunities, participate in the global market for products and ideas, and reach services that were previously off-limits.

The project, part of Microsoft’s 4Afrika initiative, has spurred several other programs including a telemedicine service, diagnoses applications, and more around government participation and agriculture.

Results

  • Provision of Internet and electric power to hundreds of thousands of rural Kenyans
  • 50 Wi-Fi hotspot locations planned
  • Access to better online education in local schools
  • Improved disaster mitigation and response capabilities
  • Citizens are more employable due to new skills and resources brought via Internet
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