The Universal Service Advisory Council (USAC) was today inaugurated by the Cabinet Secretary, Information, Communications and Technology, Dr. Fred Matiang’i.

The Kenya Information and Communications Act, 1998 and as amended in 2009 and 2013, provides for the establishment of the Universal Service Fund (USF) and mandates the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) to administer and manage the Fund. The Act also provides for the creation of a Universal Service Advisory Council (USAC) whose role is to oversee and provide strategic policy guidance in the implementation of the Fund.

 “Members of the Advisory Council underwent a rigorous appointment process and I believe we have the best people with the right expertise for the job” said Dr. Matiang’i during the event.

The inaugurated USAC membership who were appointed who were appointed on 9th May, 2014 for a period of three years include; Catherine Ngahu (Chairperson), Josephine Chepkurui Towett, James Long’ole Wangiros, Rodah Awinja Masaviru, J. Kennedy Odiwuor Okong’o, Nixon Mageka Gecheo, Wellington Pakia Godo, Samuel Gitonga Mutungi, and Michael Maina Itote..

The Cabinet Secretary said, despite the rapid growth of ICT services in the country, the disparity in availability and access to telecommunications services between rural and urban areas continues to widen. While the private sector has an important role to play in meeting universal access, there is need for government to promote investments in un-served and underserved areas through various initiatives including Universal Service Fund.

The Fund will play a key role in subsidizing the cost of ICT infrastructure roll out and expansion in these un-served and underserved areas. The Fund is primarily financed through mandatory contributions by licensed operators and the Communications Authority and any other   complementary sources. The Authority in the financial year 2013/2014 injected Ksh1 Billion into the Fund as seed money and has collected a total of Ksh45million out of the expected Kshs 800 Million from communication service providers.

The Director General, Francis Wangusi, said the Authority has over the years partnered with various institutions to carry out pilot projects in several rural parts of the country to facilitate access to ICT services. In particular, the partnership with the Nairobi Provincial Medical Office that witnessed computerization of selected health centers, and with the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development to digitize the Kenya Secondary Education curriculum. In addition, he said the Authority has worked with institutions that serve Persons with Disabilities to establish ICT centers in eight (8) schools across the country as well as the establishment of community telecenters in Chwele (Bungoma), Mutomo, Eldama Ravine and Kitundu (Makueni).

The Chairman of the Board of Directors, Ngene Gituku, informed the USAC members that the Authority carried out several studies on access gaps in particular the National ICT Survey and the ICT Access Gap study in a bid to better understand the ICT environment in the country.

The Chairman further said that a USF Framework that was developed by Management and has already been discussed by the Board and it provides a mechanism for managing and administering the Fund as well as outlining the criteria for project selection. The Chairman asked Management to urgently complete the development of the Universal Service Fund regulations to conform to the enacted Kenya Information and Communications (Amendment) Act, 2013.

On her part, Catherine Ngahu, USAC Chairperson, noted that the Council is committed to effectively and efficiently overseeing the implementation of projects that will increase penetration of ICT services to over 90% of the country.