Wanachi Group has signed a $3 million (approx. 270m) deal with the Nairobi county, to connect 2,715 schools in Nairobi with internet.

The project was launched today and by June this year (yes, in 3 months), the pilot of 245 schools is expected to be done.  After that the project will be evaluated and the second phase rolled out in three to five years.

“In addition to the free Internet, Wananchi will provide each school with a digital set top box for connection to a television for use in delivery of audio content to students. Pre-primary kindergartens will be equipped with a digital set top box and a small television,” said the release from Wananchi.

Wananchi is the force behind Zuku and in as much as they have done very well to dominate fiber to the home, I wonder how they will handle a project of this magnitude. Yes, they have bottomless pockets with the recent acquisition but I hope this project will have a better ending.

Apparently, the project will not cost the government anything but I have heard that story before. A private, profit making enterprise splashing sh. 270m from the goodness of their hearts and expecting no favours from powers that be?

Of all the big ISPs (tier 1), I think Wananchi has been missing in big government contracts and this may be a chance to show that they can compete and deliver quality public services. Safaricom, JTL, Orange, and Liquid have all had a chance to provide large scale services to government.

Local vs. international transit bandwidth

I am hoping that Wananchi will use the opportunity to drum up support for local content and hosting and in the process take advantage of the massive telco infrastructure it has put up.

If the content remains international, then Wananchi will have bandwidth issues given the challenges of lighting up TEAMS fiber optic cable (that one deserves a post). Wananchi is one of the companies almost or already maxing on their share of the already lit fiber and the policy requires them to buy from the other shareholders though the price is not fixed.

Wananchi could press for a new lighting policy, that would allow them to satisfy the demand, but if it is a question of local loop utilisation, then probably very few ISPs can beat them on that.

I am sure they have a way to manage the network in such a way that it will not impact existing customers on the network.

One laptop project

I am not sure where this project fits with the one laptop per child or whatever we will call the 24b project, but for the Nairobi schools, this will be a blessing if it goes through. If the school has existing network, then whatever IT projects coming up will benefit them. The other ISPs should adopt the other counties and do the infrastructure and this whole ICT for schools promise will become reality faster.

Let us see what happens after the pilot……