Monday, April 13, 2015

Universal Service Fund

The Universal Service Fund, created by The Kenya Information Communications Amendment Act 2009 (KICA 2009) and the Kenya Information and Communications Regulations 2010 (KICR US&A 2010), was to create a fund that would compliment the commercial roll-out of communications infrastructure.

The objectives of the Universal Service Fund as provided in the Kenya Information and Communications Regulations 2010, Universal Access and Service include:
  1. Promote communications infrastructure and services rollout in rural, remote and under-served areas 
  2. Ensure availability of communication services to Persons with Disabilities, women and other vulnerable groups.
  3. Support the development of capacity building in ICTs and technological
    innovation
  4. Support expansion of communication services to schools, health facilities
    and other organizations serving public needs and
  5. Facilitate development of and access to a wide range of local and relevant
    content.
The Universal Service Fund is primarily financed by mandatory contributions from licensed operators which provide services in the various communications market segments, with provisions for complementary financing from other sources.
The fund now has apparently has 3.4 billion shillings contributed to it by telecommunications firms and now those firms want the fund audited and represention on the  Universal Service Advisory Council, which manages the fund. From the Nation:
The money has, however, not been put to use and some of the contentious issues they had raised with CA are yet to be addressed.
“We have not yet been updated on the issue of having private auditors for this fund including the status of a new access gap study,” Tespok Chief Executive Officer Fiona Asonga said in a statement to the Nation yesterday.
I think it's fair that they want to audits on the fund, something that their own framework says should happen. From section 3.2 and 3.3:
The Commission shall ensure that utilization of the Fund is transparent to the public, and subject to independent audit.
The Commission shall have custody of the account books, cheque books, securities, investment instruments and other documents and papers pertaining to the Fund and the Fund Account. The books of accounts of the Fund shall be always open for inspection by the members of the Universal Service Advisory Council and the Licensees.
The Licensees here are the telecommunications firms mentioned in the article. The Communications Authourity should give them access to all the books and accounts so they can audit them. As for the representation on the USAC, I would suggest the CA gives them two seats on the board, which currently consists of a mix of technologist and non technical people which I think is a good balance. Peace!!

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