Free set-top boxes for Kenyans?
- Published on 21 August 2012
TV owners in Kenya could receive free set-top boxes if a proposal by the ministry of Information and Communications is implemented.
The ministry has prepared a cabinet memorandum to push for this request as the country seeks to ensure a successful migration to digital broadcasting.
Stakeholders have in recent months raised concerns that the high costs of set top boxes could slow down the migration from analogue to digital TV broadcasting, especially as the 2013 deadline draws near.
Despite a move by the government to issue a tax waiver on set top boxes in June, the devices are retailing at between $85 and $100, which is expensive for most consumers. The country has about 4 million TV sets, 40% of which are black and white, retailing at about $50.
The ministry's permanent secretary Dr. Bitange Ndemo said Kenya could replicate a model used by the UK and US governments, which issued people vouchers to buy the boxes. This model could however face challenges in ensuring fair distribution of the boxes to TV owners.
"However, the biggest challenge will be determining which households have television sets to avoid fraudsters taking advantage of such an offer. Some Kenyans we know, might claim the boxes to go sell them in Uganda," said Ndemo.
So far, digital signals have been rolled out in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu, however, majority of viewers in these areas are yet to utilise the signals since they have not purchased set top boxes. At least 70% of the population will be covered by digital signals by the end of 2012. The global deadline for migration is 2015.
"By December the whole country will be covered with the digital signal, we need to deal with the bottlenecks before 2015," said Ndemo.