by Bedah Mengo
It is over a month since Fred Anguche, a resident of Busia, Western Kenya watched television in his house.
Anguche does not have a set-top box and was plunged into “TV darkness” after the Communication Authority (CA) switched off the analogue signal in various parts of upcountry Kenya on Feb. 2.
“I am now used to listening to radio and I believe I will do it for a long time because I have not been able to acquire a decoder, ” the primary school teacher said on phone on Thursday.
To get the gadget, Anguche needs at least 38 U.S. dollars, money that he said he cannot raise currently.
“I have many needs that have pushed away the set-top box from my priority list. Paying school fees for my four children, two in secondary and two in primary schools was my number one priority and this really drained my pockets,” said Anguche, who is struggling to pay a school fees loan.
The 47-year-old said he may buy the gadget after May once he finishes paying second term school fees.
The teacher is among hundreds of upcountry Kenyans and others in the capital Nairobi who cannot watch TV after the analogue signal was switched off.
The East African nation’s digital migration process has eluded them due to poor incomes, lack of awareness on the switch, lack of accessibility to the gadgets and lack of electricity.
Radio has, thus, become the primary source of information and entertainment for the citizens that were used to watching television.
Industry data showed that more than 50 percent of Kenyans who used to watch television before the analogue signal was cut off cannot access the service.
“Digital migration has come with many challenges for me because I do not have electricity at my home,” said David Ambale, a resident of Kitale in Rift Valley.
Before the switch off, Ambale would power his television set using a lead battery that he would charge at the market centre about 5km away.
However, the use of a set-top box has presented fresh challenges to him as he needs another source of power.
“If those set-top boxes could be powered by car batteries, I would have bought one and used it to watch TV. I have looked at them and seen they only use electricity, which means I will never watch TV unless I get power,” said the farmer, who noted solar power is not an option for him because the initial cost is too high.
There are about six million households with TV sets in Kenya, but after the digital migration process, research has indicated that the number has dwindled to less than half.
A free-to-air set-top box in the East African nation goes for an average of 36 dollars while the one for pay TV is being sold from as low as 19 dollars.
“There are only about 2.5 million Kenyan households connected to power, which means more than half of TV viewers were using alternative sources of energy like car batteries. This people may never watch TV again unless they get electricity to power the decoders,” said Bernard Mwaso of Edell IT Solution in Nairobi.
He noted importers of the gadgets can liaise with manufacturers to make decoders that can use lead batteries as is the case with TV sets.
The CA will complete its three phase digital migration process end of this month by switching off several regions in Kenya that are still on analogue broadcasting. Enditem