Save Africa from monopolistic content vendors

The arrival in 2009 of international submarine fibre optic data links to East Africa is anticipated to catalyse a digital revolution in the region. For a long time access to any international digital content has been expensively dependent on satellite solution providers. With the drastic fall of internet bandwith costs already implemented by some of the terrestrial digital infrastructure providers like KDN, Kenyans and East Africans in general are in for completely overhauled digital content industry.

So significant was the anticipated change in content delivery that the Kenya ICT Board and individuals like Dr. Bitange Ndemo were aggressively evangelizing Kenyan youth and entrepreneurs to indulge en masse in the digital content generation industry.  The noble campaign to make Kenyans bridge their international content exchange deficit may also have had a side effect of forgetting to address some of the long standing content importation challenges.  A majority of Kenyans continue to pay dearly for their expensive content importation habits such as fanatically following the English Premier League (EPL).  

English Premier League matches appear to be only available through the traditional satellite TV channel currently a monopoly of the South African Multichoice DSTV.  So valuable is the football and sports to Kenyans that many of us pay USD 73 per month to pay for the appropriate DSTV package. The monthly rate is interestingly in dollars or at a prescribed Ksh/dollar rate of Ksh 78.  For now I need not go into the tribulations that Kenyans have to persevere, inflicted by DSTV’s monopolistic tendencies – that’s for another day.  Needless to say, a good number of Kenyans live on less than USD 30 a month.

I presume subscriptions to international digital content delivered through satellite are exorbitantly priced, inevitably because of the cost of maintaining the expensive satellite links. I shall also presume that the same digital content services can be delivered via our new international optic fibre gateways. I should finally be allowed to assume that it is time for Kenyans to seek delivery of ‘essential’ international content such as live English premier league games through the new fibre optic gateways. The issue of limits in bandwidth capacity and redundancy should not be an issue any more, having SEACOM and TEAMS already live in 2009 and EASSY becoming live in mid 2010.

I shall begin my appeals for 2010 by urging Kenyans to actively participate in leveraging our own football content (away from the current troubled state).  I am also appealing to the ICT ministry to proactively pursue and support the use of the expensively acquired international optic fibre links to deliver the all important EPL content to Kenyans. Lastly I am appealing to the EPL itself to desist from perpetuating tendencies of monopolistic multinationals; for instance selling 100% broadcast rights to a singular entity.


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