Kara hosted Mrs. Mercy Wanjau, the Ag. Director General of Communications Authority of Kenya as one of the speakers during the Kara-Safaricom Webinar

on Leveraging on Innovative Technology Solutions to Mitigate Risks of COVID-19 Pandemic. Below are her responses to questions sent in advance and through the chat box by Webinar participants.
1. Whenever money is sent from a Safaricom number using Mpesa to an Airtel number, the money has to be physically withdrawn within 7 days or automatically gets sent back to the sender. Can CAK make this procedure easier and reduce the risk of cash handling during this digital era by allowing the money to automatically sit in the Airtel money account of the recipient without the option of withdrawal within 7 days?

Wallet-to-wallet, interoperability has been in place and operational in Kenya since April 2018. It is possible to conveniently transfer money seamlessly across mobile networks. Customers’ mobile wallets reflect funds immediately these are received, regardless of the network from which these funds are sent. Customers are also able to withdraw the money in their wallets from the agents on their network. Also note that Communications Authority of Kenya and the Central Bank of Kenya have concurrent jurisdiction over regulation of Mobile money service in Kenya. In this regard, interoperability of mobile “mobile wallets” was largely driven by the Central Bank of Kenya.

  1. How can communication networks be strengthened in order to enable access to virtual classes to all learners?

Communication networks can be strengthened by putting in place stringent measures that address the quality and availability of services on them. To this end the Authority has put in place measures to ensure that services provided meet high quality of service standards, particularly on mobile networks, which are currently the most predominant means by which telecommunication services are provided in the country. The Authority is constantly exploring ways of strengthening the monitoring of quality of service on fixed networks as past initiatives have not yielded more effective solutions for monitoring quality on fixed networks. The Authority also put in place a mechanism for monitoring the availability of telecommunication networks so as to maintain high availability of the networks and services by minimizing outages by issuing guidelines on Network Resilience, Redundancy and Diversity (NRRD), which require licensees to submit periodic returns on the same. Additional reporting has been mandated under the current COVID-19 environment to further enhance monitoring. The above measures do not, however, address the availability of the services to all learners, which factor is being addressed by the Authority through the Universal Service Fund projects that aim to extend the reach of such services to underserved and unserved areas/citizens. The Government has in the recent past also instituted initiatives to avail electronic devices (laptops/Tablets) to learners to enable them access the aforementioned services

  1. What efforts has Government made to bring down the cost of Airtime and bundles? It appears no change in pricing?

The Authority continues to ensure that the market is more robust, since the more robust the market is, the higher the consumer welfare, implying the availability of a variety of affordable services. The Authority approves all the services by telecommunication service providers before they are rolled out. Currently there are a variety of telecommunications services/tariffs offered by the Mobile Network Operators that cater to different customer classes. We have noted in recent times, reduction of bundle prices, increase in resources available at a given bundle price-point, increase in validity period of resources bought. All these are aimed at ensuring customers get the best value out of resources purchased.

The Pay-as-You-Go rate / out of bundle rate tends to be much higher than bundled rates and tend to be a bit static, since most customers are subscribed to bundles.

The Authority also has put in place price caps for Mobile and Fixed Termination Rates. These wholesale rates have a direct correlation with retail prices. Kenya is among countries with the lowest Mobile Termination Rate (MTR) and Fixed Terminations Rates (FTR) in Africa, which currently stand at KES 0.99

  1. What frameworks are available to create awareness, encourage and attract the private sector to get into and run on e-business and e-commerce?

CA has created e-commerce guidelines to be observed by all licensees that include couriers and logistics operators. These are available on our website for guidance of operators. Additionally efforts have been mad to promote trust in e-transactions by among others enactment of data and privacy laws. Additionally, CA in conjunction with UNCTAD (United Nations Conference of Trade and Development) is developing a National E-Commerce Strategy that will include an action plan with recommendations for targeted policy interventions that will culminate into requiring all e-tailors to be registered on a public portal where their particulars can be verified for enhancement of public trust in online transactions.

  1. What's the government doing to enhance more cyber security to curb cases of fraud and cyber bulling?

The Authority is creating awareness among the Kenya public through various communication platforms and campaigns such as Child Online Protection (COP). Through the National Kenya Computer Incident Response Team – Coordination Centre (KE-CIRT/CC), we are able coordinate response to the case with other government agencies such as Law Enforcement. Collaboration with local and international service provider to address cyber bullying and cyber crime. Capacity building of cyber security professional through training and mentorship

  1. With more uptake of Internet usage in homes as a result of the Corona pandemic, therein lies the risk of radiation exposure to WiFi based modems and routers being used for extended periods in homes, especially seen as a risk factor to infant and young children. Are there any guidelines that could be proposed to help minimize such risks?

Radiation from radio frequencies travelling through space is measured in watts per kilogram (W/kg). This is usually referred to as specific absorption rate (SAR).Through standards organizations, these safety and health requirements are then defined in various equipment standards that manufacturers are required to adhere to. Kenya and most of the world has formally adopted the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) guidelines in terms of radiation exposure. The Authority is mandated by its regulations to type approve ICT devices by ensuring that ICT equipment used in Kenya adheres to acceptable international and local standards that pertain to health and safety. It is only these devices that can then be used locally.

  1. Internet in Kenya is so expensive. What is the government doing to ensure this is reduced to enable Kenyans access cheap and secure internet?

There are many activities that are currently ongoing to ensure connectivity to all citizens. This includes massive roll-out of fibre optics, private sector investments facilitated by licensing of infrastructure and Internet service providers by the Authority. The government is also partnering with Google Loons to provide faster and more affordable internet in remote areas in the country that do not have internet coverage. The balloons will hover above commercial airspace and carry 4G base stations that will have the capacity to provide wider internet signal coverage. The Authority has made available 4G spectrum that enables operators to offer high speed internet services to 4 operators. We expect as the operators continue to roll out 4G networks, competition in the internet market will intensify and costs will thereby reduce automatically. In terms of affordability, Kenya is ranked 8th according to the International Telecommunications Union Measuring digital development ICT Price Trends 2019. The same report ranks Kenya 1st in East Africa

  1. Can you comment and give assurance on the issue of data protection?

The Data Protection Act recently enacted provides for mechanisms and frameworks on how data shall be protected. The operationalization of the Act is the first step towards achieving this

  1. Do you have plans to equip government agencies offering services to wananchi with cyber security skills

The Authority is already doing this under the annual capacity building program organized by the National KE-CIRT/CC that targets technical personnel in government agencies. The annual capacity building program has now trained more than 300 officers and counting