Kenyan Post Office, Citizens Cut Off from Satellite-based Internet

In his best-selling memoir Dreams from My Father, U.S. Senator Barack Obama wrote extensively about how corruption in his father’s native Kenya constantly thwarted his father’s ambitions and drive toward personal and economic betterment.

Obama recently returned to Kenya; now it appears that such corruption continues to this day. According to BusinessDay, the Kenyan Post Office and the citizens who used the cheap, high speed Internet access available at their local post offices had their satellite-based access to the world-wide web cut off due to lack of payment. Universal Satspace, a satellite communications company-based in Israel (or Delaware, depending on who you ask) had to cut off the service after the African country failed to pay its bills for over five quarters and owed more than $12.3 million dollars to the company.

First reported last month in All Africa, the Kenyan government is supposedly holding back its payment to Universal Satspace because it suspects that the contracted is connected to government contract-leasing scandal that has emerged in the country over the past year and a half. Universal Satspace is, understandably, fervently denying any allegations of wrong doing, claiming that the Kenyan government is using the claims of corruption as a way of getting out of making the necessary payments.

The real tragedy, of course, is that the country’s refusal to pay and Universal Satspace’s response has resulted in the Kenyan people’s disconnection from the Internet. According to the Business Day report, while the agreement’s main goal was to modernize the state’s postal system (which, in turn, has made it a model for the rest of Africa) the introduction of Internet service to even the most rural of post offices enabled the government to provide its people access to fax and Internet service at prices far lower than what was offered by Internet cafes.

As we can see in the video above, the service really worked and was doing a great deal to connect Kenyans to growing online communities. Hopefully, an agreement between Universal Satspace and the government can be worked out soon.