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Andy opens up on revolutionising Kenya with poa! Internet – Tech – Pulselive.co.ke – Kenyan Tribune
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Andy opens up on revolutionising Kenya with poa! Internet – Tech – Pulselive.co.ke

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  • More than 4 billion people, mostly in developing countries, still don’t have access to the internet.
  • The vast majority (80%) of online content is only available in 10 languages, which only about 3 billion people speak as their first language.
  • Business insider SSA (BISSA) recently had a chat with Andy Halsall, the Chief Executive Officer of poa! Internet, to understand how they are opening up Kenya’s low-income urban areas and rural areas with cheap internet

More than 4 billion people, mostly in developing countries, still don’t have access to the internet.

This means that over half of the world’s population is missing out on the life-changing benefits of connectivity, from financial services to health and education, being brought about by the increasing pace of innovation known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, according to the World Bank.

The internet has become a pervasive, fundamental part of daily life. But low internet penetration significantly impacts a country’s ability to participate in the digital economy, which is becoming an increasingly important priority for development as Africa, like the rest of the world, enters the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”  Alex Wong, Head of Global Challenge Partnerships and Member of the Executive Committee at the World Economic Forum said, while urging both governments and businesses to work towards breaking down the digital divide for the 55% of the world’s population that is still not connected.


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Alex Wong, Head of Global Challenge Partnerships and Member of the Executive Committee at the World Economic Forum. (World Economic Forum)

 

There are four main reasons why so many people are still offline, according to Forum’s Internet for All report.

One reason many people aren’t logging on is simply that a good, fast connection is not available – 31% of the global population do not have 3G coverage, while 15% have no electricity. In sub-Saharan Africa some 600 million people (almost two-thirds of the region’s population) do not have regular electricity, and this applies to nearly a quarter of people living in South Asia.

Affordability, Skills, awareness and cultural acceptance and lack of Internet local adoption and use are the three other major barriers keeping billions of people offline.


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About only 25% of Kenyans are connected online. (Twitter)

The vast majority (80%) of online content for instance is only available in 10 languages, which only about 3 billion people speak as their first language.

Business insider SSA (BISSA) recently had a chat with Andy Halsall, the Chief Executive Officer of poa! Internet, an Internet Service Provider that develops and delivers fast, unlimited, and affordable Internet to low-income communities in Nairobi Kenya, with the aim of contributing to local, social and economic growth.

Here is an excerpt of our conversation.


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Andy Halsall, the Chief Executive Officer of poa! Internet at their offices in Nairobi. (George Tubei)

 

BISSA: So Andy what is Poa Internet?

Andy: We are an ISP company that is Internet Service Provider, we are regulated by the communication authority of Kenya and we are focused on delivering internet service to a market that is not well addressed we believe by the existing ISPs either by cellular operators or fixed-line ISPs.

BISSA: So where this is neglected market located that is now the fulcrum of poa! Internet?

Andy: About only 25% of Kenyans are connected online and our mission is to connect the rest of Kenyans that aren’t connected to Internet, there are two reason why those Kenyans aren’t connected one is either they can’t afford it and secondly is they can’t access it so poa! Internet addresses two markets, we are in low-income urban areas such as Kibera and Kawangware and increasingly we are moving into rural areas because they are just no internet service available in these areas.


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poa! internet mast atop a roof in Kibera. (Facebook)

 

Kibera and Kawangware have a large population of low-income earners so they both allow us to test and come to a price point that is attractive to people who live on certain salaries and to work out  too how to best position our service.

Kiambu is our first rural community, you know 65% of the Kenyan populations live in rural areas so we see that as a long term massive market but we did Kiambu because it is fairly close to Nairobi.


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An aerial view of kiambu (the star)

 

We just getting going in rural areas so we haven’t seen yet I think the real potential of what this can do to people even in Kiambu which is close to Nairobi gets very rural as you go way up north but we have started in Kiambu Town and we kinda expanding from there, what they gonna do with it I don’t think we have seen the beginning of that yet but as more and more rural folks get online we will see .

BISSA: In terms of seed Capital, how much have you raised and pumped into the business so far?

Andy:  We have risen over $ 4 million so far and we are in the process of closing our next investment fund.

BISSA: Like you mentioned a majority of people in these areas are not bourgeoisie swimming in money so your internet services must be really low to attract them in the first place, right?

Andy: We offer very low-cost internet services, we offer two services that is public WiFi which is public hotspots in the streets and that starts at Sh10 and all our packages are unlimited so there is no megabyte, you get as much data as you can pay for an amount of time. Sh10 gives you an hour of unlimited internet so you can watch an hour of Youtube if you want or stream for an hour without worrying that my internet is getting depleted. Sh50 gives you access to unlimited internet for 24 hours, Sh350 for unlimited internet access for a week and Sh1500 for a month so as you can see it is very good value for money.


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poa! internet at a past connection drive. (Facebook)

 

The second service we offer is the home internet, we give you unlimited broadband internet in your home and for that we charge Sh1500 a month so again compared to what other ISPs offer the cheapest you can get is about Sh2500 you again we are trying to be substantially cheaper than the competition but still offer good quality and reliable internet service.

BISSA: That is really cheap; I mean Sh10 for an hour of unlimited internet god I wish my home internet provider was charging me that much, how are you able to price it that low?

Andy: The reason we are able to offer this low-cost internet services is because we use WiFi technologies rather than fibre technologies. There are benefits of using WIFI technology one being it is cheaper and cost effective but it means we have to build the network in specific areas, WiFi network is the same as fibre and works equally fine if not better. At the moment we operate in Kibera, Kawangare and we have just launched in Kiambu, we are currently expanding in those areas.


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Andy Halsall and Chris Rhodes who launched poa! internet using innovative solar-powered Wi-Fi technology. (brad.)

 

We build these high capacity wireless networks powered by Solar and when we get a home customer we put a small antenna on their roof that connects to our tower, the idea is you don’t need to put any wires on the customer’s premises.  It is very easy and simple to install and the equipments is very low cost compared to you know these big cell towers that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to put up so by doing that it means we can save a lot of money and we don’t have to pass that cost to the customer.


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Andy Halsall, the Chief Executive Officer of poa! Internet at their offices in Nairobi. (George Tubei)

 

BISSA: Impressive! So I am curious to know what is the story behind Poa internet, what inspired you to found it?

Andy: So If you look at my personal background you will sort of understand where it came from, the last two businesses I have been involved with, Poa Internet has sort of come from there.

Before I started Poa internet I was the Director Operator Partner of a company called FON, the world’s largest WiFi network and while I was working there we used to build WiFi networks in Europe, the US, Japan etc. and I realized from doing this you can now build these very high-quality telecom networks using these WiFi technologies.  The business I was in before FON is what we were doing is finding technologies in the west that could bring to the Middle East and Africa and so Poa Internet was kind of merging these two things. And to say okay how can we use this clever WiFi technology which we were deploying in the west but what happens when you deploy it into Africa and then you start looking at what are the challenges here.

BISSA: Why Africa and Kenya in particular and what kind of Impact do you think Poa Internet can usher into communities?

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Andy: You know a vast majority of people in Africa don’t have internet (A 2016 International Telecommunications Union report estimates that only about 25 percent of the population of Africa has access to the internet.) and once we figured out a way in which they can get it in an affordable way from the existing technologies there was obviously a huge commercial opportunity and if you can sell to those people, fantastic.


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Nairobi City. (Nairobi Garage)

 

But from a social perspective as well it is a massive problem I mean the digital divide we have here in Africa is huge, so you know people who live in Urban areas and have money can afford to get online without much fuss but if you don’t have money or you live in rural areas you can’t afford to get online the implications in terms of education, commerce, social inclusion etc. is huge. You know there are so many social negatives of not having internet since internet is an enabler for so many social benefits.

So yes we are a commercial business but a lot of what we do has a social impact and where we can we try to work very closely with the communities we operate in to sort of give some benefits to those people like for example we install a lot of our equipment at Schools, Health Centers, Youth Groups, Religious Centers like Churches and Mosques and we give those places free internet.

BISSA: Okay so since Poa internet came into the scene what are some of the success stories you have had so far?

Andy: We have over hundred schools connected and when you go to these schools you see the kind of impact internet has in these schools and communities, we keep encountering with customers who have started many profitable businesses based on the fact that they now have affordable internet connection.


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poa! internet offer unlimited internet for as low as Sh10. (Facebook)

 

We have met people who now have turned into serious video editors and have wedding videos sent to them from as far as America, I am not sure how they get them but they do receive them and they edit them up and then send them back to America, you know that is the kind of business you could never do if you didn’t have a low-cost internet and more so an unlimited one because doing the same kind of work with a normal internet is super expensive and hence prohibitive.

There are people out there who are creating all sorts of jobs and side hustles and that is the greatest thing about us, the fact that we have provided a channel and an enabling environment for people to exploit all their creativities. 


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poa! Internet addresses two markets, low-income urban areas such as Kibera and Kawangware and increasingly they are moving into rural areas. (Facebook)

 

BISSA: I am sure it has not been a walk in the park, so what some of the challenges you guys have faced and continue to face?

Andy: I mean we have tested lots of variations of the product, it is great to say internet but is it megabyte, is it unlimited, how you pay for it, and how much do you pay for it you know there has been an awful lot of testing different variations, try this see if it works so we have spent a large amount of time refining the propositions to customers, we have spent  a lot of time working on the best way to market and sell it, every dollar we spent on marketing is a dollar we need to pass back to the customer so we got to be very efficient.


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Poa! Internet technician fixing internet connection on top of a roof at Kibera. (TechMoran)

 

Working how to establish and build relationships with Kibera residents has been an interesting learning curve as well. So I don’t think we have found it fundamentally difficult but there have been lots and lots of different challenges to resolve, these environments aren’t easy places to deploy telecom just getting on top of roofs on Mabati shacks creates a whole bunch on engineering problems compared to when you are building something on a nice building in Westlands and you don’t have to worry about that so a lot of challenges has been related to understanding the environment we operate in.


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Andy Halsall and Chris Rhodes who launched poa! internet using innovative solar-powered Wi-Fi technology. (brad)

 

Myself and our CTO (Chief Technological Officer) we both used to work for firms and we have built 20 million WiFi hotspots across the world right, and arrogantly two, three ago we thought we knew everything there is to know about WiFi, doing it here and doing it in Urban areas are two different things and a big learning curve, but that is also the most exciting thing about it and keeps me asking ‘why the hell I am still doing here (laughs) since every day is a learning experience and that’s very  beneficial.

BISSA: What is your strategy for the Kenyan and African market and where do you see Poa Internet say in the next 10 years?

Andy: World domination (laughs), the problem we are solving isn’t a Kenyan problem, it is not even East African or African problem you got about 5 – 6 billion people who don’t have internet access across the world.


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Andy Halsall, the Chief Executive Officer of poa! Internet at their offices in Nairobi. (George Tubei)

 

The vast majority of people in the world don’t have internet access, the West is online but virtually everyone else is offline so what we are trying to do is create a model which can be replicated to other places while keeping in mind language changes, cultural differences etc. the way a West African might buy internet is different from an East African but ultimately it is the same set of challenges, get the price low, get the delivery right so our goal is to get the model right which is why we are still staying relatively small, once we get it right we plan to expand it across Kenya, Africa and then the world, so you can see there is a little bit about world domination but we will see how it goes. (Laughs)

BISSA: As we wind up before we log off from this very interesting conversation, i know you have probably heard of this  belief that Africa is the future, do you subscribe to that belief?

Andy: Africa is the future (signs) I mean it has huge potential, I mean massive massive potential, you got very young population, you got very large populations, you got a lot of development growth potential still to come right and you got very rural centric kind of environment  which is ripe for exploitation so the potential is massive the challenge is massive.


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Andy Halsall, the Chief Executive Officer of poa! Internet at their offices in Nairobi. (George Tubei)

 

There are lots of things which can get in the way, a lot of businesses that you see we included are kinda building the infrastructure, all they are building is the supply chain whether it is us getting the internet or it is people getting medicines, people getting food supply or electricity supply so if that infrastructure can be put in place then it creates a very level playing field for Africa to be able to compete with the rest of the world.

But these things take time so I think there is a huge potential for Africa, how quickly it can act on these challenges and opportunities remains to be seen so it is there to be heard but this isn’t about foreigners, NGOs Africa herself needs to grow and exploit all these opportunities, yes it needs  investment, foreign money helps, foreign expertise helps a lot but they can only go as far, Africa then needs to controls its own destiny.



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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