Kenya had peaceful polls in 2022, after which William Ruto was declared the President. The elections were also backed by a ton of technology tools and services offered by different vendors and IEBC partners. This collaboration ensured that the KIEMs kits (they have biometric voter registration data, and were also used to transmit results to observatory centres via specially configured mobile devices) worked optimally thanks to robust 3G and 4G connections provided by local telcos, and in cases where such networks were not available, the IEBC equipped its teams with satellite modems for the same exercise.

The IEBC distributed more than 55000 KIEMS kits across the country. Besides identifying voters at different polling stations, the kits proved pivotal in transmitting voting results from polling centers to the national and constituency tallying stations.

Before the polls were conducted, ICT regulator the CA had revealed that it was finalizing talks with telcos regarding how they could work together to ensure that all poll results were transmitted to tallying centres securely and reliably.


The discussion entailed how the entire exercise could work. In this case, operators provided dedicated and secure tunnels to transmit encrypted data from the KIEMS kits to IEBC servers.

The exercise used 2G, 3G, and 4G connections to move encrypted data from polling centres (through KIEMS), constitutional tallying centres, and county tallying centers (via a USB modem), as well as from diaspora tallying centre (via KIEMS) to IEBC servers. The base transceiver station then moved the information to a transmission network, which then delivered voting data to the final destination.

Telcos also provided technical support to the IEBC prior to, during, and after the general elections. The telcos also revealed that they provided a record of transmission from all the SIM cards provided to the IEBC.

READ MORE: State of 4G in Kenya in 2022: Safaricom, Airtel, Telkom, Equitel, and Faiba

Transmission and mobile data coverage

The transmission exercise could not have been possible without the robust coverage of 3G/4G services across the country. To put this into context, here are the 3G/4G numbers offered by local telcos as of this time in 2022:

Broadband network coverage per MNO in the 24,585 existing polling centres

OperatorPolling centres coveredPolling centres uncovered% 3G/4G coverage
Airtel18134645174%
Telkom16692789368%
Safaricom23545104096%

Broadband network coverage per MNO in the 2824 newly established polling centres

OperatorPolling centres coveredPolling centres uncovered% 3G/4G coverage
Airtel18134645174%
Telkom16692789368%
Safaricom23545104096%

These are not the only local operators that have been at the forefront of pushing for wider mobile internet coverage. For instance, in August 2021, Equitel became the fifth provider to offer 4G services in Kenya, behind Safaricom, Telkom, Airtel, and Faiba.

Telkom, on its side, began expanding its infrastructure and network modernization in late 2016, and on June 6, 2017, it launched its 4G/LTE network across 28 towns in Kenya – this was six years after they had launched its 3G network in the country.

A few weeks ago, the telco announced it was expanding its 4G coverage, this time around at the Coast and Lower Eastern regions, meaning it serves Mombasa, Kilifi, Kwale, Lamu and Taita Taveta. The expansion also stretched to Makueni, Machakos, Kitui, and Kajiado Counties.

Telkom ranks fourth in mobile internet speeds in Kenya as of Q2, 2022 scoring 4.71 Mbps.

Airtel’s 4G coverage is still unknown as they don’t share those details in their investor briefs, but it has a lot of customers, especially in urban centres across the country.

The firm, whose roots are in India under Bharti Airtel, ranks second in mobile internet speeds in Kenya as of Q2, 2022 scoring 15.71 Mbps.

Safaricom leads the pack since its4G population coverage now stands at 97%. It also takes the crown regarding mobile internet speeds in Kenya as of Q2, 2022 scoring 22.74 Mbps.

Faiba has not been forgotten. At launch, it had 300 4G base stations and ranks third when it comes to mobile internet speeds in Kenya as of Q2, 2022 scoring 14.08 Mbps.

Overall…

Over the last couple of years, it has become apparent that ICT is essential in transforming how polls are conducted in Kenya.

This has also been accelerated by the work done by telcos in expanding their coverage and services, as well as the backing they continue receiving from the government and regulators, including the Communications Authority.

3G and 4G coverage has also connected polling stations and places that were once unserved or underserved by this technology.

The availability of mobile networks has also ensured that voting data is transmitted to tallying centres instantly.

As seen from the data above, the majority of Kenya telcos have done a fairly good job in serving their customers, and by extension, authorities that need their service.

The top three telcos, which were most likely picked for the exercise, have since realized the novelty of being ahead of the competition in terms of service offerings, which is why they have used different approaches to reach a wider market base while appealing to their customers and organizations they work with.


The next polls are half a decade away, and with the coverage reported, it is possible that nearly all parts of the country will be served by at least 4G.

Safaricom, for instance, is also transitioning to 5G to supplement 4G, with a commercial launch slated for later this year. Others will follow too, and this will only benefit the consumer in the long run.


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Kenn Abuya is a friend of technology, with bias in enterprise and mobile tech. Share your thoughts, tips and hate mail at [email protected]