Kenya has long been a global technology leader for innovation in mobile and internet technology, including the use of mobile phones for uses as diverse as cash transfers and crowd sourcing of reports on election violence (in 2008). Kenya also features an active press and civil society accustomed to speaking out about national issues including corruption and human rights violations. With national general elections scheduled for August this year, these assets can play important roles in sustaining peace and democracy. But they may also be threatened by government restrictions or by use of social media for propaganda and incitement to violence.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from a report on The State of the Internet in Kenya from the Bloggers Association of Kenya, released in November 2016, as well as two short articles with relevant updates on recent technological advances, including solar powered TV's aimed at rural markets.
Growth of the Internet in Kenya
For this report, we tracked the 36 most active blogs within the BAKE server and the stats from individual blogs for the period between October 2015 and October 2016. According to our analysis of the data collected, the blogging scene has seen a huge growth in the terms of monthly readership in the last one year. Overall monthly visits (readers) increased by 46 per cent from 12.4 Million to 18.1 Million. There are many factors which have contributed to the growth of blogs readership including the high increase of the number of Kenyans who can access Internet through their phones. But more importantly, blogs are seen by many Kenyans as authentic means to get news and opinions which mainstream media would normally shy away from. This could be described as Anti-Traditional Media Sentiment and the blogs are increasingly filling the gap.
The growth in Kenya's Internet penetration has seen the media and entertainment economy significantly move online. The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) quarterly sector Statistics Report Fourth Quarter for the Financial Year 2015-2016 (April-June 2016), indicates that the Data/Internet market reached 26.8 million during the quarter while the estimated number of Internet users grew to 37.7 million users during the period under review.
The report further records that Internet penetration declined from 87.2 per cent recorded last quarter to 85.3 per cent. This drop is attributed to the revision of the base population figure used in the computation of penetration from 43.0 million to 44.2 million in line with the Economic Survey 2016.
According to the Kenyan Entertainment and Media Outlook: 2013-2017 (Outlook) report by audit firm PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC), Internet access is a key driver of entertainment and media advertising and content dispersion in most segments. The Internet market consists of both consumer spending on Internet access and the revenues generated from Internet advertising. PwC estimates that the total entertainment and media expenditure in Kenya will exceed US$3 billion in 2017. Internet traffic in Kenya has increased due to the reinforcement of international bandwidth capacity. Increased capacity has benefitted both the fixed and mobile segments. The report further asserts that Kenyan Internet advertising is set to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.9 per cent over the forecast period, growing from a low base of only US$2 million in 2008. Search and mobile advertising will be the main growth-driving segments over the forecast period.
Mobile Data and Smartphone Penetration
Kenya's mobile penetration has increased from 89.2 per cent to 90 per cent according to the CA report. The report says that the continued growth in mobile subscriptions has been driven by proliferation of mobile data services such as m-commerce and mbanking services as well as handset affordability.
According to the Consumer Barometer survey by Google, the percentage of people who use a smartphone to access the Internet in Kenya has increased from 27 per cent in 2014 to 44 per cent in 2016.
Notable platforms in Kenya
According to Facebook, there are 6.1 million Kenyans on Facebook.
The visit by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's co-founder and CEO, in September 2016 was a validation of the growth of the platform in Kenya and also the ICT sector. In his visit, he announced that he wanted to learn from both the local developers and entrepreneur community. He visited the iHub, Twiga Foods and Andela on his first visit to Sub-Saharan Africa.
According to a story published in the Economist in May 2014, it is believed that Twitter's co-founder, Evan Williams, sent the first ever tweet from the lounge of the Mount Kenya Safari Club in August 2007.
According to Nendo, a digital research company, there are 2.2 million monthly active Kenyans on Twitter. 1 million of them use Twitter every day.
According to Nendo estimates, WhatsApp has 10 million users in Kenya. It has become an important channel for person-to-person communication and has become a driver of conversations on other social media platforms as content shared on WhatsApp finds its way on Twitter and Facebook.
Nendo also estimates that there are 3 million Instagram users in Kenya and 1.5 million LinkedIn users.
The role of blogs and Social Media
Blogging platforms and Social Media have become alternative news sources for Kenyans. Time and again, even mainstream media has either used the platforms to first air their news or rely on it to gather news. The government has used it to communicate and respond to critical issues.
As alternative, reliable and dependable sources of news, Jackson Biko and Morris Kiruga have stood out in the past year for credibly showing the world society's ills and struggles.
Crowdfunding had yet to get an impetus as did when Jackson Biko through his blog wrote about Mr. Emmanuel Otieno aka Jadudi who was fighting cancer. He told the story of the then 22-year-old university student from a humble background who had undergone three brain surgeries, but still had a lot of fight in him and sought financial help to go under the knife for the fourth time. As a result of Biko's piercing storytelling coupled with Zawadi Nyong'o's brilliant Social Media campaign, Ksh. 6.4 million was raised in 46 hours.
Mr. Kiruga, popularly known as Owaahh, has cut a niche for himself as the best historical and research-focused blogger of our time. While he has been blogging for over six years, it is his serialized story on the corruption at Imperial Bank 17 in February 2016 that put him on the national radar. He continues to consistently write features that are well developed for online readers.
The industry has also grown to be an environment with legitimate career paths which employ full-time writers. Platforms like HapaKenya, Techweez, Tuko, Ghafla! and Soko Directory among others continue to have full-time staff on their payroll. Most of these are in the media