Kenyan government’s plan to offer free TV set top boxes hits a snag

Lack of data on the number of television sets in the country may mar plans by Kenya’s government to supply free set top boxes to its citizens, in a bid to help them migrate to digital broadcasting signals.

While addressing members of parliament in the Public Accounts Committee, Kenya’s Ministry of Information and Communication PS Bitange Ndemo said: “We are faced with a super headache of knowing who has a TV. Some people might collect the boxes and sell them in neighbouring countries.”

According to Dr. Ndemo, the big challenge will be how to identify those with TV sets as they were not registered in the first place.

This is also because television buyers’ records stopped being kept when permits for TVs were withdrawn several years back.

He however was quick to add that his ministry had presented a memorandum to the cabinet seeking to have it buy set top boxes and distribute them free of charge.

The Ministry of Information alongside Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) have set a target of December 2012 as when 80 percent of Kenyans should be connected to the digital signals.

Critics however view the deadline as unachievable as “very few Kenyans” have acquired the set top boxes, with only four months left to December.

“The migration to digital from analogue spectrum has been hampered by the high cost of converter boxes. Digital spectrum has high speed broadband with good signal and more than 600 channels,” Ndemo added.

The digital signal is accessible in the country’s capital Nairobi and its environs. The rest of country is set to receive the broadcast before year-end.

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