Internet Access in Kenya
In this current era, it is evident that the internet is causing a revolution. Historically, the most famous revolutions have been the agrarian and industrial revolutions. it is clear that the internet revolution has changed the way of life all over the world. The concept of making the world a global village has been realized and enhanced thanks to the contribution of the internet. Kenya has surely picked up this wave of the internet revolution.
A report in 2014 indicated that Kenya had the highest bandwidth per person in Africa with the fastest speeds and also lowest charges on intent rates. The report indicated that Kenya had more undersea cables than her neighboring countries. At this time, the country had a 20-fold increase in international bandwidth in the country to 20 GB per second.
Another report by the Freedom on the Net (FOTN) Organization in 2016 indicated that Kenya’s average broadband connection speeds average at 7.2 Mbps which surpassed the global average of 6.3 Mbps.
In June 2017, a report showed that Kenya has the 14th fastest mobile internet speed at 13.7 mbps which was almost twice the global rate and higher than that of the United States. Even Jack Ma, the Founder of AliBaba, in his recent visit in Kenya stated that he was surprised by the high internet speed in the country. The Kenyans have responded positively and continues to adopt the concept of being connected.
As indicated above the number of internet users has been on the rise from 2012. The internet penetration as represented by percentage of population with internet access has also been on the rise from 30% in March 2012 to 89.40% in March 2017.
In just a span of 5 years, the proportion of internet users has increased by more than 50%. This is an indicator that the Kenyan population has positively embraced the new digital era and embedded the internet in their way of life.
It is very clear that the number of Kenyans subscribed to the internet has continuously been soaring. For the last five years, the total subscriptions were just 6,490,080 in March 2012 as compared to 25,707,557 in March 2017.
One interesting fact to note from the above graph is that the mobile data subscription in the largest contributor to total internet subscriptions. This means that most Kenyans use mobile devices to subscribe to and access internet services.
Other sources of internet subscriptions in the country include fixed wireless data subscription, satellite data subscription, Fixed DSL Data Subscription, Fixed Fiber optic data subscription, fiber cable modem subscriptions. These sources account for the difference between total internet subscription and mobile data subscription.
Mobile Data Subscriptions and Internet Penetration
The increased proportion of population with internet access is most likely attributed to increased mobile data subscription. This implies that more and more Kenyans are getting connected through their mobile devices. Psychology experts have coined a few conditions of anxiety associated with mobile devices.
They include “nomophobia” or no mobile phobia, “Fomo” or fear of missing out and “Fobo” fear of being offline. So glued are the Kenyans to their mobile devices that the realization of a missing phone may make their heart skip a beat.
The internet has for sure made enormous contribution towards the digitization process. It has touched areas such as access to information, business, and access to government services, banking, and education among others.
Life has been made easier by the internet. For instance; the mobile banking and e-banking platforms have revolutionized the manner in which we handle our money.
The e-citizen platform has simplified lives for Kenyans who had to previously queue in government offices and look for files that were in most time missing.
The itax system has not only helped the government increase its government revenue but has also helped people file and pay taxes more easily with less hustles. The internet has opened a door of creation of celebrities such as Githeri Man, Bungoma ‘James Bond’, and the most recent NEMA Ambassador.
In 2015, Jumia reported a growth in the sales of smartphones on their site by 58% as compared to a growth rate of 7% in 2011. Between the two periods, the average price of smartphones on their site reduced from ksh 15000 in 2011 to ksh 10,000 in 2015. There was also a notable increase in number of smartphones brands from 15 in 2011 to 22 in 2015. 65% of the smartphones sales on Jumia was within Nairobi city.
The increased internet penetration can be attributed to the shift in the manner in which government services are offered. Government services have slowly found their way unto the e-platforms thereby helping reduce lead time and improve efficiency in offering these services.
In 2016, a study on various public institutions found that learning institutions led in offering e-services with 74.30% of their services being offered over the internet. Hospitals were found to be the public institutions with least services offered on the internet with only 24.70%.
The e-commerce business environment has been influenced directly by the increase in internet access. Some of the popular retailer sites over the internet include Jumia, Kilimall, cheki, olx, buyrentkenya, buyUSA-Kenya among other. Kenyans are slowly adopting the trend of shopping online. This has seen businesses invest in e-commerce platforms as indicated in the graph below
Despite the high internet penetration among user, e-commerce has not been widely adopted by businesses. In 2016, the internet penetration rate was more than 80% while only 39% on enterprises were found to be engaged in e-commerce.
A report by the Communications Authority of Kenya in 2015 made a similar observation of slow uptake of e-commerce in Kenya as compared to her African peers.
At this point, it was observed that Kenya had the highest internet penetration amongst the four countries compared which stood at 69.60% as compared to 50.5%, 54.6% & 60.6% for South Africa, -Egypt and Morocco respectively. However, Kenya’s e-commerce market had the least value of ksh billion 4.3 as compared to 54, 17 & 9.6 ksh billion for South Africa, Egypt and Morocco respectively.
E-commerce in Kenya has not fully taken off despite the soaring rates of internet users and growing demand for people to be connected in the region. If Kenya is to reap total benefits of increased internet access, the narrative needs to be changed.
The story of the internet continues to be woven in the tapestry; more and more innovations are in the pipeline; and maybe soon the concept of the global village may not be enough to describe how connected the world will be.