poa! internet, which provides low cost community Internet across Kenya’s slum areas, has for the last 18 months been growing faster than any other Internet Service Provider (ISP) in the country. Kenya’s slum dwellers are now moving online in their thousands, helping to equalize one of the greatest digital divides in Africa, between the connected and the unconnected.
The low-cost ISP has now deployed over 120 access points in the Kawangware and Kibera slum areas of Nairobi. Many of these points are installed at schools, clinics and other community locations covering an area that is home to around 1m low-income residents, of which approximately 200,000 are smartphone users. poa!’s service provides unlimited internet plans to the surrounding residents, offering them access from just Sh10 (around 10 U.S. cents) an hour, instead of the traditional data bundle pricing that charges people by the MB.
The ISP’s unique business model, which poa! calls ‘community Internet’, has achieved monumental revenue growth of over 400 per cent since the beginning of 2017. This in comparison to an industry average revenue growth of just 12 per cent for the country’s other ISPs, according to the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA).
In this short space of time, poa! has already connected over 21,000 subscribers, many of whom could never have previously afforded to access the internet in any meaningful way.
“Our business model has been structured in a completely novel way to open up real Internet access to low-income subscribers,” said Andy Halsall Chief Executive Officer at poa! Internet. “Our mission from the outset was to move the country’s lowest income communities online, comprehensively and pervasively.”
Some 53 per cent of the poa!’s subscribers currently buy the 1-hour data plan for Sh10 an hour while 45 per cent buy the poa! daily 24-hour plan for just Sh50.
“We also believe that by offering completely unlimited internet within these communities, we open new possibilities in the local institutions that are hosting our hotspots in accessing teaching materials and online research, communicating with patients, and providing online medical services, and new business opportunities for surrounding residents.”
Around 99 per cent of all poa! customers access the internet through mobile devices, thanks in part to the subsidised prices for smartphones in Kenya, which has seen the country achieve one of the highest smartphone penetration rates in the world.
In addition, the ISP has also created jobs for over 60 people from Kibera and Kawangware so far.
“Our model also focuses on employing people from these same areas to create new jobs as well, in areas where unemployment currently stands at 50 per cent or more,” said Andy.
poa! Internet also provides connections to local businesses such as cyber cafés and movie shops therefore generating more jobs again by enabling expansion of the local economy.
“I have been able to receive a minimum of 50 clients a day as compared to the 10 I used to get when using a modem from another Internet provider,” said Alfred Ouma, who owns a cyber café at Zabibu Community Centre, in Olympic, Kibera