Wi-Fi networks built in Kenya by Liquid Telecom and the Office of the President (Kenya) were named as the ‘Best Connecting the Unconnected Initiative’ in the world at an international ceremony in London last night, attended by global operators and vendors.
Now entering its fourth year, the Global Telecoms Awards shine a spotlight on the industry’s most innovative companies and recognize innovation and excellence across the board. The judges comprise independent and highly respected analysts as well as industry heavyweights, with each category hotly contested by projects entered by vendors and operators from around the world.
The network designed in the Nakuru BilaWaya initiative, which covers a 10-kilometre radius from the city’s Central Business District (CBD), is built around strategic points accessed by the highest proportions of the town’s population. There are currently more than 300 concurrent users enjoying the service during waking hours.
“Liquid Telecom’s BilaWaya has really helped us to improve our business. We get lots of customers and most of the time they come because of the free Wi-Fi. I would serve about 90 customers per day, but nowadays, since the introduction of the free Wi-Fi, we are serving above 200 customers. We usually reach our clients through our Facebook page and on WhatsApp,” said Cecilia Gichuki, Yummies Restaurant Manager.
With 51 nodes installed, the network serves users in the streets and open public areas such as stadia and parks. The nodes are concentrated along Kenyatta Avenue, Geofffrey Kamau Road, Top Market, the main bus terminus in the CBD, Afraha Stadium, the county headquarters, Nyayo Gardens and the Westside Mall.
Academic institutions in Nakuru also enjoy the free, outdoor, Wi-Fi access, among them JKUAT Nakuru Campus and Mount Kenya University.
The free Wi-Fi has enabled rapid access to information that is vital for economic growth and has increased the use of e-learning tools in the city.
The WiFi has, for example, given farmers access to online tools that can increase their yields and income helping them with farm management, providing discounts on seeds, providing diagnosis on plant diseases and calculation of the ROI on irrigation projects and others.
“Whether you are a farmer, student or engineer, the Internet nowadays is something you can rely on. Residents of Nakuru have benefited so much because of this Wi-Fi because they now have information, which is power,” said Leonard Kirui, Nakuru County ICT Chief Officer.
A portal – BilaWaya – has also been created to provide a wealth of valuable and practical advice for Internet novices, as well as the more experienced.
These moves have seen the initiative emerge as one of the most successful in Africa. It won a prestigious award from The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) in the
‘Best Wi-Fi Deployment to Connect the Unconnected in a Rural Environment’ category during the World Wi-Fi Day on 20 June this year.
Last year, Liquid Telecom and the Office of the President (Kenya) won the Changing Lives category at the AfricaCom awards for the project. “The success, recognition and the hugely positive response of BilaWaya has triggered demand for similar services across Kenya.
We have already been approached by five other county governments to implement a similar solution,” said Ben Roberts, Liquid Telecom Kenya CEO. The Internet service provider recently signed a three-year partnership with Kiambu County government that will see residents enjoy free wireless Internet in designated areas in the county.
Additionally, Liquid Telecom has been shortlisted at four other upcoming award ceremonies to be held later this month in three different continents: Global Capacity, CommsMEA, MEF and AfricaCom.
The Global Carrier Awards, which recognise innovation, vision and excellence across the global and regional wholesale industry, will be held in Paris. Liquid Telecom will be defending its title as the ‘Best African Wholesale Carrier’, a category it has won for the past four years.
At the Comms MEA awards taking place next week in Dubai, Liquid Telecom has been shortlisted in the ‘Best Marketing Campaign’ category for its AfriCAN campaign.
At the MEF awards taking place in the US, Liquid Telecom is again shortlisted in the
‘Best African Wholesale Carrier’ category. At AfricaCom later this month, Liquid Telecom has been shortlisted in the Best Marketing Campaign alongside ZOL, its sister company, in Zimbabwe.