Telecom Reform and Poverty Alleviation in Kenya

Kane, Sean
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LINK Centre, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg
Eradicating poverty is perhaps the single most important global development challenge. As rural areas are typically home to the majority of the poor in developing countries, the success of poverty alleviation interventions in rural areas will be important in determining if this challenge is met. This paper examines the relationship between telecom reform and poverty alleviation in Kenya, documenting how investments in poverty alleviation are made significantly more effective if basic telecom network services are available. It demonstrates that ICTs have the potential to maximize the multiplier effect of rural poverty interventions by empowering disadvantaged individuals and improving their immediate economic environment. In this context the national telecommunications policy framework and its impacts on the accessibility and affordability of ICTs in rural areas is increasingly important to poverty alleviation institutions. As a case study, the reform of the telecommunications sector in Kenya and its implications for that country’s rural poor are assessed. It is concluded that the current policy and the market structure it has created is resulting in a bypassing of rural areas in terms of access to ICTs and suggests some remedies for this situation. Finally, it is recommended that, given the importance of ICTs to their work, poverty alleviation institutions should consider making low cost investments in ICT infrastructure when appropriate while using their leverage as possessors of development assistance funds to lobby for changes in telecommunications sector policy regimes that hinder access to ICTs in rural areas.
Kane, S. (2002). Telecom reform and poverty alleviation in Kenya. The Southern African Journal of Information and Communication (SAJIC), 3.