Technology Service Providers of Kenya (TESPOK) is a professional, non-profit organization representing the interests of Technology service providers in Kenya.
TESPOK was established in 1999, the main vision being to enable ICT growth and development, with the mission being the leading association of choice in peering services and steering ICT development.
TESPOK’s strength and credibility has rested on its ability to be truly representative of the ICT industry as a whole, as it keeps Kenya connected.
The main objectives of TESPOK are to:
- influence ICT policy and regulations by engaging government at the relevant levels.
- address challenges faced by Technology stakeholders and provide guidance on resolution mechanisms.
- provide a forum for exchange of ideas amongst industry stakeholders and development of white papers
- manage the Kenya Internet Exchange Point in line with internationally accepted best practices.
TESPOK is currently undertaking a number of initiatives in fulfilling its mandate. As a result of the changing role and image of TESPOK, its services have been aligned to position it as a major Industry Association that is capable of providing leadership and guidance in matters more than simply Internet. Four key areas of synergy and industry alignment that have facilitated this are:
- IP Address management and policy development
- Domain Name stability and growth
- Industry Capacity building to fill skills gaps
- Cyber security deployment and reporting
TESPOK offers the following key services to its members:
- Policy advocacy: ICT policy advocacy is at the core of the establishment of the organization. It formed the basis of the various industry competitors coming together to establish common positions so as to engage government jointly.
- Industry capacity building programs: Technological advancements have required continuous skills development for industry technical teams on implementation of established standards and industry-wide best practices.
- The Kenya Internet Exchange Point: Facilitating faster communications speeds at reduced prices to the end users and keeping local traffic local.
- The Industry Computer Security Response Team: Bringing together the security teams of the respective member to work together in a collaborative approach to keep the cyber space safe.
During this COVID-19 period, TESPOK continues to worked closely with its members to ensure the public is continuing to receiving reliable online services through the various telcos and tech service firms, working round the clock.
At the helm of TESPOK as the Chief Executive Officer is Fiona Asonga.
Commenting on the current COVID 19 Pandemic, to demonstrates how TESPOK keeps Kenya connected, through accurate and efficient communication, Fiona comments, “We are beginning to see the number of cases doubling up, and our members are in critical need of information which we are obtaining from the government,”. “The situation is evolving all the time and so the authorities are trying to find a balanced position from which to move forward,’’ she adds.
Other growth and developments in ICT continue to be registered.
For instance, the end of 2018 saw the country pass the 100 percent mark in terms of mobile penetration, with around 49.5 million mobile cellular subscriptions which are transforming the national economy.
In addition, new developments like the Global Roaming Exchange at the Kenya Internet Exchange point (KIXP), an international routing hub for the nation’s mobile technology, have facilitated the entrenchment of mobile into consumer and commercial life, not least in the area of finance, banking and tax administration.
A major user is the Kenya Revenue Authority’s Integrated Tax Management System, which is heavily dependent on KIXP for availability to the public and at the various custom points,” Asonga adds.
A second major use is the necessity for digital learning programs arising out of the closure of learning institutions. This has seen learners continue to access learning material and keep themselves busy. This need has occasioned an increase in local internet traffic. The service providers have had to contend with the need to upgrade their connections so as maintain the required quality of service parameters for the end users, the CEO states. TESPOK has offered KICD learning content a free port at the KIXP for ease of access to educational material by learners across the country.
But during these troubling times, the role of Asonga as the CEO and TESPOK has shifted markedly, with the organization in constant dialogue with government as it attempts to coordinate the industry’s response at this critical moment of the country’s history with nerves being stretched to the limits.
“TESPOK is the partner behind the scenes making sure that communication continues to go uninterrupted,” Asonga adds. “We are ensuring houses can continue to call hotlines and receive the most up to date information, an unsung hero role that is crucial in our country’s efforts to combat the outbreak.
“Our members and service engineers need to be on the ground, playing their part in unprecedented network upgrades and maintenance – we cannot afford for communications to stop running, ‘Asonga adds.
“We are also speaking with other associations from around Africa and other parts of the world,” Asonga says. “Sharing information and experiences in this way is vitally important, as we can learn from the likes of Italy and Germany who are at a more advanced stage in dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak.’’ As members of both the European Internet Exchange Point Association and Africa Internet Exchange Point Association, TESPOK is borrowing from the experiences of other both on and off the continent to ensure they stay ahead of the industry needs and customer expectations.
This is one of the milestone achievements of TESPOK. Prior to Kenya’s, there was no IXP on the African continent between Morocco and South Africa. In early 2000, TESPOK undertook to organize a neutral, non-profit IXP for its members.
After nearly a year of preparatory work, including the design and implementation of a capable technical operation, funding model, and legal framework, the KIXP was launched in late November 2000, located in Nairobi.
Until KIXP, all Internet traffic in Kenya was exchanged internationally, yet about 30% of upstream traffic was to a domestic destination.
An IXP is not an international gateway but a peering facility that enables ISPs to exchange local traffic. KIXP went live on 14th February 2002 having actively interconnected 5 Kenyan ISPs, with 8 others in the process.
To date there are 54 members already peering at the KIXP ranging from ISPs, government networks, education networks, the ccTLD Operator, Internet Backbone Gateway Operators, mobile operators and Value Add Services Providers. The KIXP has played a virtual role in supporting socio-economic development by supporting e-commerce platforms and valued add service providers at the IXP.
iCSIRT is another vales service by TESPOK. It is the Industry Computer Security and Incident Response Team (iCSIRT). TESPOK works closely with the Information Security community to detect, report and investigate incidents that pose a threat to the security of our members’ information systems.
iCSIRT also investigates other forms of network abuse such as spam, phishing, host compromises, denial-of-service attacks and host vulnerabilities.
iCSIRT safeguards the current and future network security of TESPOK and of the peering members, enabling a secure environment for online activities.
Lastly, TESPOK has three major categories of partners, fulfilling its core mandate. These are:
- Regulatory and Policy Development Partners who enabled the secretariat effectively negotiate to facilitate a suitable investment environment.
- Infrastructure and Network Development Partners, who facilitate the value-add services that the KIXP provides to all peering members.
- Technical Capacity Building Partners, who provide support to the various training programs being developed and run by the association.
TESPOK is also forging partnerships with other Associations both locally and abroad to share and exchange ideas on how to best address issues affecting the ICT Sector. By facilitating partnership of potential investors with local industry stakeholders, TESPOK hopes that the sector move to greater heights and new technical skills are developed