Microsoft Brings Revolutionizing Technology to a Kenyan Town

A shipping container houses Nanyuki's first internet café.
(Photo: Brian Smale)
Presented byPresented by Microsoft
May 27, 2016· 1 MIN READ
Kelly Bryant is a Los Angeles–based freelance writer covering fashion, pop culture, and parenting for a variety of national publications.

In today’s world, the internet feels about as available as the air we breathe. Every piece of information we need is just a click or a swipe away, and the access is largely something we’ve come to take for granted.

While finding internet availability stateside is often as easy as finding an open Starbucks, half the world is not able to easily access the web. That’s a staggering number of people.

Rural villages and other areas near the Kenyan market town of Nanyuki were lacking the affordable access to information that is so commonplace in large towns and big cities. That is, until a bright yellow shipping container with a modest blue roof rolled into the area.

Enabled by Mawingu, a company that harnesses TV white spaces (unassigned or otherwise unused broadcast channels) and other frequencies to provide internet access, locals now can hop on the web without having to travel hours to the capital city of Nairobi or other larger towns to conduct business or work on their studies. Mawingu has partnered with Microsoft’s 4Afrika initiative, which works to offer access and skills to the people of the continent.

“We came up with this idea of having one point where all people can use the internet and come together without paying a lot of money or traveling,” says Benson Maina, who runs the café. “In the rural areas people have a lot going on in their lives, and they would like to spend more time doing something to get income. Telling someone like that to travel three hours to do one email is a waste of time. By putting up the internet café it’s helping people who are suffering or lacking that opportunity.”

Working with local start-ups like Mawingu, Microsoft is promoting low-cost infrastructure and technology to connect rural areas to the world, which means an increase in income prospects for communities that need and want more of them.

While Maina says his customers consist largely of 15- to 30-year-olds, he adds that many people frequent the café, from those using it for educational purposes to farmers looking to cut out the middleman when selling their produce to buyers near and far.

“It has been very significant. There has been big change," Maina says. "Let me start by saying that getting information is so important—without information you’re done. You’re so behind everything. Nowadays there are a lot of online jobs. Somebody might be able to do that job, but without the opportunity of going to the internet café in that rural area it means nothing. I have a lot of people who are coming here to get something better for themselves. I have a lot of people who have been jobless for a long time. With newspapers, they might get today’s newspaper tomorrow, so they’re late to apply for a job they find in it. Access to the internet is helping people get jobs, get money. It’s improving their income.”

Knowledge is power. With access to the information superhighway, rural villages can have the world at their fingertips—all from a shipping container right in their town.