The balloons carrying routers to allow 4G internet links to sleepy Baringo town and adjoining villages in Kenya have brought a new hope of connectivity in the region.
This project conceived by the Kenyan government is aimed at enhancing 4G network coverage in rural areas where telecommunications towers are not present.
Three weeks ago, John Sakwa a small-scale milk vendor from Baringo who had recently started selling cheese and butter to a client in the Kenyan capital Nairobi 250 kilometers (155 miles) away missed three important video calls.
“They said they wanted to see the kind of goods that I have after seeing my profile on Facebook. But then my internet was so terrible that I could not connect. A few weeks later these guys came with balloons carrying high-speed internet,” he said.
Sakwa said the internet balloons will improve his business and make villagers digital as the people in the capital Nairobi.
With the COVID-19 pandemic parents like Jane Omusula were worried that while students in Nairobi were learning online, but the village kids had no access to the internet. In digital classes, they could just hear the teachers but that connection also used to break in seconds.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta who was on a video call with some of the locals during the launch, said it will mitigate coronavirus work disruptions.
“This service will extend Telkom Kenya’s 4G network to areas that currently not covered by any of our mobile network providers. The service will also boost online learning as it will allow teachers and students to access education materials remotely,” Kenyatta said.
He further said that fast internet will link local businesses with global markets, benefit e-commerce, provide educational opportunities, and connect people to public healthcare information.
Kenyatta said that the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority has signed an agreement with Google Loon that allows Loon Balloons to fly over Kenyan airspace. The 4G balloons are powered by solar batteries.