Liquid Telecom Kenya has launched a two-year ‘Information Enabler’ programme that will see entrepreneurs who publish local content online receive free Internet connections, free website hosting, and unlimited internet usage for a period of two years.
The move marks the 6th Global Entrepreneurship Summit, which took place in Nairobi and for the first time in Sub-Saharan Africa, from July 25th -26th, at a time when improved internet access in the developing world has the potential to generate an additional $2.2trillion in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a 72 per cent increase in the GDP growth rate, and more than 140m new jobs, according to the 2014 Deloitte report Value of connectivity: Economic and social benefits of expanding internet access.
Liquid Telecom Kenya’s social entrepreneurship programme, which will target content start-ups, ties with the group’s vision of connecting every African to the Internet in order to promote economic growth and development. It is rooted in the group’s belief in the value of local online information and content.
“Liquid Telecom has invested more than $50m in building new Internet infrastructure in East Africa, including fibre optic and data centre projects. With this move, we are now moving to support the development and growth of local Internet content, which is a further pillar to the transformatory power of the Internet,” Mr Ben Roberts, CEO of Liquid Telecom Kenya said.
It is through growing information-based websites that Kenya can shift to becoming a knowledge based economy, in turn reducing poverty, which is an aim of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). According to Deloitte, unlocking a knowledge-based economy makes it easier to share information freely. This in turn enables development based on skills and knowledge, rather than on access to natural resources – something that many African economies rely on heavily. Such a shift will see African economies develop “specialised expertise and adopt new business methods,” said the 2014 Deloitte report.
By 2014, Internet penetration in Africa had reached 26.5 per cent, while the number of Internet users stood at 297m. If Africa were to achieve the 75 per cent penetration now common in the developed world, the continent would have Internet users totaling 700m, a reach that underpins Deloitte’s assertion’s on the economic benefits Africa stands to reap with increased Internet connectivity.
Such benefits follow from heightened communication and access to much richer information, which support both enterprise and innovation, helping to grow small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Morocco, for instance, experienced an 11 per cent productivity gain because of the Internet, according to a 2012 McKinsey report Online and Upcoming: The Internet’s impact on aspiring countries. An increase in productivity leads to a corresponding growth in the economy.
According to a World Bank Study, a 10 per cent increase in broadband penetration generates per capita GDP growth of 1.3 per cent. Deloitte estimates that this could see per capita income in Africa increase by 21 per cent.
“Against the backdrop of Africa’s rapid move online, it is vital that we see the growth of an information sphere built by local entrepreneurs or techpreneurs. These information providers are set to be the enablers of much of the economic growth that will flow from the continent’s greater connectivity. Our programme has also been designed to aid these businesses by keeping African data in Africa, thereby enabling more rapid and easier access for African Internet users,” said Mr Roberts.
In order for entrepreneurs to qualify for the social entrepreneurship programme, they will need to be producing original content of demonstrable utility in promoting economic growth and development, and be posting new information on the Internet at least three times a week.
Liquid Telecom Kenya is aiming to provide the support for smaller enterprises, which should have 9 or fewer employees, and may be one-person operations. “The key to our selection will be the quality, frequency, and utility of the information that these entrepreneurs are producing and delivering,” said Mr Roberts.