The proclamation by President William Ruto that the state will spend Sh40 billion to increase internet access to schools, markets and homes is laudable given the huge impact of broadband on socio-economic development.
The internet has become a basic necessity for economic and human development. It is now a dependable tool for the provision of essential services such as healthcare and education and offers opportunities for affirmative action such as women and youth empowerment.
Digitisation of services also boosts transparency and accountability in public services, which at the end of the day contributes to development in society because every resource is tracked to ensure it is put to good use.
Further, it is a major facilitator of jobs in information and communication technology (ICT), engineering, and other sectors which is critical in reducing poverty.
The plan to roll out an additional 100,000 kilometres of fiber optic cable is therefore sensible if well implemented.
However, the biggest challenge is to expand broadband access to all. Estimates by the World Bank show that only about 35 per cent of the population in developing countries has access to the internet compared to 80 per cent in developed economies.
This reflects in Kenya where large swathes of the country still lack internet coverage, denying residents billions of shillings in business opportunities and jobs. The disparity in internet coverage between urban and rural areas hinders shared prosperity and constrains access to passageways out of poverty.
Maximising internet connectivity is not an easy task and the state should consider partnering with private sector investors to expand broadband in the country. It could provide incentives such as tax rebates to entice private capital towards this worthy cause. This is particularly recommended in rural areas where costs are high and revenues low.
The cost of the internet should also be made affordable by removing unnecessary taxation.