Africa’s leading data, voice and IP provider Liquid Telecom Kenya has installed a Sh400m fibre optic network connecting 25 Kenya Agricultural And Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) centres and enabling the country’s agricultural research institution to use technology to bolster its research progress.
Liquid Telecom created a Virtual Private Routed Network (VPRN) for KALRO in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and Nanyuki and installed three different last mile technologies 5 centres on VSAT, 18 on Microwave and 2 on fiber five VSAT two-way satellite ground stations in Perkerra, Marsabit, Buchuma, Kiboko, and Transmara to deliver the research institute with a seamless 30MB internet network across all of its centres.
“Some of the sites are very remote and many of our users did not have experience beyond basic PC knowledge. After connecting the router, we had to train them on how to access the files from headquarters & basic troubleshooting” said Perez Ochieng – Rana Head of Service Delivery at Liquid Telecom Kenya.
With Kenya counting on key sectors like agriculture to feed its population, create a trading surplus, and drive growth to 2030, the country’s future depends on modernizing farming through research and innovation from KALRO.
However, the national research body has been struggling to keep up with regional and international peers in information sharing and access, said Boniface Akuku, the Information Management and Communication Technology Assistant Director at KALRO.
Until now, the more than 480 KALRO scientists have relied on shared 3G modems and cyber cafes.
“In my centre, my staff had no access to internet at all,” said Dr. Patrick Gicheru the Centre Director at the National Agricultural Research Institute. The centre is one of KALRO’s largest, with 70 scientists and 150 staff.
However, the Wide Area Network infrastructure installed and completed in May this year by Liquid Telecom Kenya has now transformed the institutions’ work.
“The success of the new internet connection is evident in the amount of work and output we are getting from the staff,” said Dr. Charles Waturu, the centre director at KALRO Thika. For Charity Wangari Gathambiri, one of the 40 scientists based at KALRO Thika, the new WAN has even allowed her to enrol in an e-learning course with the Association of Food Scientists and Technologists.
The new infrastructure has also enabled KALRO to create official email accounts for its staff, and seen the scientists all now accessing peer-reviewed journals and fully plugged in to the international science community.
The technology has additionally opened the way to better disseminating the institution’s research to farmers. Technology Information Units, TIUs, have now been installed in Embu and Thika, providing information booths that allow farmers to log in and get information about agriculture and KALRO innovations. To be rolled out in 11 centres, the TIUs will enable KALRO to better reach farmers with transformatory agricultural innovations that currently lie idle.
“Agricultural research is an integral aspect in ensuring food security. There is a wealth of information at KALRO and it needs to be leveraged by getting it to as many farmers as possible, in the easiest and cheapest way. This is what the Liquid Telecom WAN built on fibre optic and satellite technologies has been built to do,” said Paul Statham the Chief Commercial Officer at Liquid Telecom.
In Africa, research has found that each dollar spent on agricultural research generates a median internal rate of return of 37 per cent. In India, studies have found that government investment in agricultural research and extension has had a larger impact on economic growth and on reducing poverty than spending on other rural programmes.
Liquid Telecom Group has positioned itself as one of biggest investor in Africa’s Internet connectivity. In East Africa, the firm has invested $20 million (Ksh1.75 billion) which has seen the installation of 17,000 kilometres of fibre optic cable across Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi, the largest of its kind in Africa.