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Residents upset as free Wi-Fi services collapse

By SILAS APOLLO

The much-hyped free Internet launched in Kisumu and Nakuru counties is now down, almost a year after it was launched.

The two projects, according to county government officials, were initiated to improve the use of information and communications technology, as well as service delivery to residents.

The Sh200 million Nakuru project was an initiative of the county government and the State House Digital Team while the Kisumu one was a partnership with the national government.

However, residents who spoke to the Nation n Tuesday said they are yet to benefit from the projects.

The projects were to cover a 10-kilometre radius in each of the two major towns. The move made the towns the only ones in the country to have free Wi-Fi for the public.

“The system is turning out to be another white elephant. Residents have no access to the service. Money went down the drain,” Mr Hesbon Omollo, an accountant and a blogger in Kisumu, told the Nation.

“My estate is about three kilometres from the central business district yet I cannot access the Wi-Fi,” said Ms Molly Atieno, another Kisumu resident.

Some of the hotspots were the Jomo Kenyatta Sports grounds, the Kisumu Bus Park. Most of them are now inaccessible. The bulk SMS platform launched by the Kisumu County Government last year has also collapsed.

OUT OF RANGE

Ms Elizabeth Gachanja, a resident of Nakuru, said although the system showed signals on mobile devices was in most cases out of range.

“I cannot have access to the said Nakuru Bila Waya Internet services. Every time you try to have access to it, all you get is that the signal is out of range,” said the banker.

Mr Suge Kipkoech said he had failed to have access to the Internet since its launch.

“All I can say is that the project has failed. Access to the service is almost impossible,” he said.

Kisumu County Executive for Information Michael Onyango, however, blamed the national government over the problem, saying the county had no mandate to run the system.

“The county government does not run the budget of the project,” he said.

When contacted, State House Digital Team Director Dennis Itumbi, however, distanced his department from the Kisumu project and only defended the Nakuru one, saying it was up and running.

“The Nakuru Wi-Fi can only be accessed on the streets, and not indoors.”