Covid-19: Alphabet’s giant Internet balloons to boost anti-virus efforts in Kenya


  • Google
  • Wednesday, 25 Mar 2020

A high altitude WiFi internet hub, a Google Project Loon balloon, on display at the Airforce Museum in Christchurch. Loon and Telkom, that’s partly owned by private-equity firm Helios Investment Partners LLP, have been testing the service for the last two years, and have so far installed ground stations in Nairobi and two other towns. — AFP

Kenya has approved a project by Alphabet Inc’s unit Loon and Telkom Kenya to begin broadcasting high-speed Internet from huge balloons hovering over the country’s airspace.

The project, part of Kenya’s plans for a technology hub, is being expedited to help in quelling the current challenge of the coronavirus pandemic. Kenya has 16 confirmed Covid-19 cases.

The 4G service will “support our efforts in surveillance and management of coronavirus infections”, President Uhuru Kenyatta said in the capital, Nairobi, on Monday. It’s at the same time laying the foundations to expand technology capabilities once the current health challenge is contained, he said.

The balloons, expected in the next few weeks, would help to link hard-to-access clinics in rural Kenya with the nation’s referral hospitals, Telkom said in an emailed statement.

Loon and Telkom, that’s partly owned by private-equity firm Helios Investment Partners LLP, have been testing the service for the last two years, and have so far installed ground stations in Nairobi and two other towns.

The companies will help “to expedite service deployment to support the government’s efforts to further manage the spread of the virus”, Kenyatta said. People will quickly get connected to emergency services even when working from home, he said. — Bloomberg

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