Nairobi — Internet access is not only a catalyst for economic growth, it is also increasingly a prerequisite for people to access critical government services and be engaged in the society.
However, a sky-high connectivity cost remains one of the biggest obstacles to achieving the universal access with about 50 percent of the world connected to the Internet.
The Internet is considered affordable if 1GB of data costs less than two percent of one's income, according to the Alliance for Affordable Internet (AAI).
Based on this indicator, only five countries in Africa provide affordable internet including Mauritius, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Sudan states a 2017 AAI report.
Here in Kenya 1GB of mobile broadband is said to cost an average of 9.72 percent of the average monthly incomes - making Kenya's Internet more expensive than other comparable countries such as Rwanda, Ghana and Botswana.
"Affordable access to the internet is important for countries. The government cannot do it alone, we need the private sector to come in and support the government in access to affordable internet," Lutz Ziob Dean for Microsoft 4Afrika told Capital FM Business.
Microsoft, through its Microsoft 4Afrika initiative, is working to provide affordable access to the internet in Africa.
The global tech giant bought a stake in an affordable Internet service provider - Mawingu Networks - that is keen on providing affordable internet through public Wifi.
The network which uses TV White Space has seen over 67,000 people connected to affordable internet with costs as low as Sh10 for 50MB with speeds ranging from 2MBPS to 30MBPS.
Since its inception in 2013, Mawingu has over 1,000 hotspots and also connects 600 small businesses to affordable internet in Nanyuki and its surrounding towns of Laikipia, Embu, Meru and Nyeri and is set to expand its operations in Samburu, Isiolo and Kirinyaga.
"The affordable access has changed a lot of lives, with students getting access to the internet, and opening up of businesses and farmers looking for information," said Tim Hobbs Chief Executive Mawingu Networks.
Hannah Wairimu, a form two student at Sweet Waters Secondary School in Nanyuki says the availability of internet has allowed students research deeper into topics and enabled them to revise effectively from past exam papers uploaded online.
"Internet has brought a new method of teaching, arousing interest in various fields that were difficult for the teacher to teach in class, so when you incorporate the ICT together with their notes, the students are able to understand better, explore and research," said Judy Nyambura, a Teacher at the school, adding that the school performance has improved greatly since the introduction of internet.
A4AI research has shown that across a number of low- and middle-income countries, public WiFi is, in fact, one of the most popular options for online access.
A survey of 8,000 users across eight developing countries found that users often combine public WiFi with other paid mobile data services to meet their online needs and to keep costs low.
"Indeed, public WiFi (including in libraries and community centres) can support women and low-income populations by connecting these groups to the internet, at low or no cost," the report states.
Kenya's uptake of broadband services increased in 2017 leading to a rise in subscriptions from 10.8 million in the previous year to 15.4 million according to the latest statistics from the Communication Authority of Kenya.
The 2017 report says subscriptions for Data/Internet services stood at 29.4 million.