Busia’s digital hut where locals connect to the world
By Lilian Kaivilu
It is the peak of political campaigns ahead of the August 2017 General election in Kenya. To most Kenyans, every small pronouncement by the political aspirants has the ability to influence their voting. Not many Kenyans, however, have access to media.
But in the quiet village of Kiriko in Teso North, Busia County, villagers here are a privileged lot. Despite the remoteness of the village, people here are at par with the local and world news, thanks to a local hub that avails news, sports and other TV shows to the locals at an affordable fee.
This may look as an ordinary traditional hut to many who visit this village. But to the locals, from this hut comes their vital link between them and the rest of the world. A short conversation with residents of Kiriko village confirms this. Men, women and the youth are well versed with the news trends in the country as well as the globe. Football fans here are not left behind. Young boys have the names of players at international football clubs at their fingertips. “Huku ni Nairobi buana. (Life here is just like in the city,” jokes one of the young men watching a Nigerian movie in the small hut.
Odeke Lukelinus is a 21 year-old student at Kibabii University. He hails from Kiriko village. For him, life is the same both at school and home when it comes to access to the mainstream media. “As an upcoming footballer, I am now well versed with the international football, thanks to the access to digital TV here,” he says. Lukelinus started watching football at this base in 2012.
He says this facility has helped him beat idleness that is witnessed in most rural homes. As a senior youth, he ensures that younger students in primary and secondary school do not get distracted from studies while watching movies at the base.
“We keep watch of the students to ensure that they only watch news. This way, they are able to concentrate on their studies,” he adds. Majority of residents here do not own a TV set. This base, therefore, helps them keep up with the trending topics in the country and globally.
Alexander Papa Aleo is the brain behind this innovation. Aleo, 29, opened the News and football base in August 2012 after failing to secure a job. He had just completed his studies in General Agriculture in Animal Health at the Sangalo Institute of Science And Technology. “After graduation, I searched for a job in vain. That is when I decided to start this venture. I noticed that people would travel ad far as 25 kilometres to watch news and football,” says Aleo.
And with Sh7,500 loan from a friend, the father of one bought a DSTV dish at Sh2500 and decoder at Sh5,000. He would then install these in a grass-thatched house that has since become the attraction of many residents and visitors. In a day, Aleo makes about Sh300. To watch news, locals pay Sh10 while fans of football pay SH20 per football match. “This is high season here since many residents are eager to watch news about the ongoing campaigns,” he says. Besides TV watching, Aleo also makes extra income by charging mobile phones for the locals at Sh10 per phone.
“We thank Alexander for this work. Let it remain. Instead of gossip, we are now more engaged as women. It has, however, affected our young people who are now less committed to house work,” says Emily Amaja, a resident who frequents the base to watch Nigerian movies.