By Judith Gicobi
Residents of Nairobi’s Eastlands neighborhood are protesting an increase in thefts that target WIFI devices installed on residential buildings’ rooftops.
The criminals have been busy collecting Lite Beams and Power Beams, which are utilized by small-scale WIFI suppliers in impoverished settlement, and commonly referred to in the estates as “Internet mwitu”.
In Nairobi’s informal settlements and slum regions, where land title is frequently in question, internet mwitu is prevalent.
Alphonse* revealed to a local daily that criminals stole all of his internet-related equipment, forcing him out of the “internet mwitu” enterprise.
“I lost a total of eight LiteBeams, and in a span of two months. The thieves would strike almost weekly. That’s a lot of money given one of such gadget, the small ones, cost between Sh6,500 and Sh20,000,” Alphonse, who currently owns and operates a cyber café in Eastlands, remarked.
“The thieves would climb on top of the seven-storey building where I had mounted the gadget, and steal it,” he said.
An “internet mwitu” supplier named Don Oti argues that areas with a high density of tall structures are particularly conducive to theft.
“The will jump from the adjacent building onto the next one to steal. It’s a dangerous thing to even attempt because one can lose his footing and fall,” he said.
The metal reinforcements that are used to secure the devices to the rooftops are also taken by the thieves.
Long-distance wireless broadband bridging is accomplished with the aid of the Lite Beams and Power Beams devices.
“I know many people who have been forced out of business because their gadgets were stolen,” Don, who purchases “internet” from major companies and then resells it to small-scale customers in underdeveloped regions, explains.
While “internet mwitu” is a familiar topic in these low-income neighborhoods, the majority of the people who live there have often had problems with the quality of the internet service that is provided to them.