Kenyans will soon have a cheaper, locally assembled computer. Three local universities and a tertiary institution yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding that will result in Kenya joining nations assembling computers.

The three -University of Nairobi, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and Strathmore - will act as incubators of the project. Kenya Technical Training College (KCCT) will be the implementing agency. KTTC has been placed under Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK). The deal was signed at Ministry of Information and Communications headquarters at Teleposta Towers.

The project that follows the Taiwan model is jointly funded by CCK and Safaricom Foundation to the tune of Sh20 million split equally. Communications permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo said the institutions would do research for the components and pass over the findings to local assemblers.

Already, he said, three firms Lenovo, Mecer and Sahara had been appointed to assemble the first 50 computers each, which will be on display at an exhibition to be held at Kenyatta International Conference Centre on February 7. "We narrowed on these three and after six months we shall drop those who do not produce and meet our specifications," Dr Ndemo said. He said the computers, to be called Madaraka, are projected to cost $450 (Sh 31,500) a piece.

The Government removed duties and value added tax (VAT) on imported computers and parts to encourage more Kenyans to embrace Information Communication Technology. Dr Ndemo said the universities would train manpower that would be involved in assembling. Certification will be done before the computers are released to the market.

"The model will be like that of Taiwan where small enterprises are encouraged to produce and certification given before exports," Dr Ndemo said. CCK commissioner general John Waweru said apart from software development the project would grow local expertise to enable the country cope with changes in the ICT sector.

The Nation