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Kenya: State of the Internet
January 30, 2017 (170130)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
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 crowdsourcing 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 solarpowered
TV's aimed at rural markets.
For the role of Ushahidi, developed to monitor post-election
violence in 2008, visit http://www.ushahidi.com/about and
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Kenya, see
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on information and communication
technology, see http://www.africafocus.org/ictexp.php
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++
State of the Internet in Kenya 2016
Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE)
[Excerpts: full report, as well as the report for 2015, available at
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
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
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 industry, but a few of them are secondary offline
careers built around an online presence.
Social Media has also claimed its stake as a force to reckon with
its never ending fierce critiquing, highlighting and pushing policy
makers to take actions on issues. Mark Kaigwa, in an academic
article titled; From Cyber Café to Smartphone: Kenya's Social Media
Lens Zooms In on the Country and Out to the World asserts that
journalists now consider Twitter a part of their beat, using it as a
core part of their job.
Kaigwa says it has become common to see news broken on Twitter by a
blogger - whether a hobbyist, informed industry insider, or cyberroving
reporter pouncing on a story—legitimizing it (at times,
plagiarizing it outright!). Kenyan media outlets routinely source
and quote tweets and other comments from Social Media for their news
Nanjira Sambuli argues that going by the last decade of growth and
contribution to public policy directly and indirectly, Social Media
cannot be taken for granted. What is casually referred to as
"hashtag activism" has considerable successes in bringing duty
bearers to shame and account.
Freedom of expression and the media in Kenya
The last year and a half has been difficult for media freedoms in
Kenya. Journalists and bloggers have felt the wrath of power and
influence when doing their job in a manner that is striking similar
to the old, dark days of Kenya. When Kenya promulgated the
Constitution on August 27th 2010, with robust provisions for
journalism practitioners, it was never imagined that these
provisions will remain just on paper.
Article 19 East Africa, last year documented that that each month
from January to September 2015 had cases of intimidation. Over 60
journalists and bloggers were silenced, intimidated, harassed and
some even killed in a spate of violence against freedom of
expression, freedom of the media and access to information. The
cases of threats against journalists and bloggers have been all over
the country, with the fewest incidences being in the northern part
of Kenya. Isiolo, Meru, Embu, Kiambu, Kitui, Mombasa, Kwale,
Kajiado, Nairobi, Narok, Bomet, Kisii, Kisumu, Bungoma, Uasin Gishu
and TransNzoia counties all recorded threats to freedom of
expression. The Police, state officials, politicians and other
individuals have contributed to the silencing and intimidation of
journalists. In the period this report covers, at least two
journalists or bloggers were threatened every month.
Kenyans online have also not been spared the wrath of excessive
force and impunity. The use of 'improper use of licensed
telecommunication gadget' under Section 29 of the Information and
Communications Act was rampant. It criminalized publishing
information online which is deemed unlawful by the authorities. The
section has since been declared unconstitutional.
Others were charged with "undermining authority of a public
officer," for criticizing government officials on Social Media, a
charge under section 132 of the penal code (Chapter 63 Laws of
Kenya) which was enacted in 1948 during the colonial rule. Robert
Alai, when charged under this section, filed a counter suit
challenging its constitutionality. The case is ongoing.
[extensive set of additional cases discussed in full report]
Bloggers and Social Media concerns for 2017
In August 2016 after President Uhuru Kenyatta met Governors, they
agreed to take stern actions against media houses and Social Media
users who propagate hate. They argued that the reason for coming
down heavily on incitement and hate speech was to maintain peace and
a stable united country before and
after the elections.
The concerns are however, that these leaders will take advantage of
the agreement to arrest, intimidate and prosecute their critics
without any link to hate speech. The previous actions with how
Governors have been against journalists and their critiques online
who call them to order and journalists who highlight
maladministration and corruption worry. For instance, West Pokot
Governor, Simon Kachapin and Nakuru Governor Kinuthia Mbugua are
some examples of how they have reacted to journalists who report on
corruption. Governor Mbugua was also accused of using the police to
Another concern bloggers have is the possibility of the Internet
being shut down during the 2017 General Election. This action has
been an emerging trend by various African countries during elections
and has cast doubts of the Kenyan government maintaining the
Internet since they have closely associated themselves with these
countries including Gabon, Uganda and Ethiopia. Additionally, Kenya
was one of the countries that voted against the landmark UN
resolution condemning Internet shutdowns.
Mr. Walubengo, a lecturer at the Multimedia University of Kenya,
Faculty of Computing and IT argues 66 that Kenya, having a more
sophisticated leadership, can encroach on Internet freedoms in more
subtle ways than many other African countries can. It is unlikely to
orchestrate a countrywide Internet shutdown like what typically
happens in Uganda or Zimbabwe. However, they can achieve the same
effect by shutting down selected zones of the country as and when
they deem it necessary.
He says that, "mobile-based technologies are inherently geo-location
based. It is therefore easy to propagate congestion or otherwise
take down GSM base-stations in one or two targeted counties without
affecting the rest. This could be done to contain perceived sources
of "unrest" - be they of political, social or economic nature.
Citizens within those zones would be without access for as long as
it is considered necessary for government authorities to get on top
of a situation."
In addition, the executive has been critical of critics of its
regime, especially its policies, sending alarm to whether they will
accept criticism of election mistakes and mishaps if
they were to happen. It has equally resented peaceful assembly and
demonstration on political issues.
The African School on Internet Governance
(AfriSIG) in Durban, October 2016 made a statement as an outcome of
a multi- stakeholder practicum regarding the practice of Internet
shutdowns on the continent. The statement highlighted that shutdowns
violate individual rights, companies and media organizations with
content online. These institutions and individuals lose credibility,
revenue, and audience when the Internet is shutdown while
individuals can lose jobs. In their recommendations, they affirm
that multi- stakeholder forums within countries should help
determine when in extreme cases the Internet could be shutdown.
A report by the Brookings Institute published in October 2016,
affirmed that Internet shutdowns cost countries $2.4 billion
last year. The report arising from 19 countries highlights reasons
for ordering these disruptions as safeguarding government authority,
reducing public dissidence, fighting terrorism, maintaining national
security, or protecting local businesses. While they acknowledge
that the economic loss is a conservative figure, the report
underlines that Internet disruptions are creating significant
detrimental impacts on economic activity in a number of nations
around the world.
Azuri Technologies offers solar 24 inch TV to Kenyan rural
households and sees "real opportunities" in the other 12 countries
it operates in
25 January 2017
Balancing Act: Telecoms, Internet and Broadcast in Africa
Kenyans in rural areas are increasingly looking to buy solar TVs.
Rising expectations mean that they want something similar to a
Kenyan living in the city, not a downscaled product with less
content and a smaller screen. Azuri Technologies is seeking to meet
this need with an alliance with pay TV provider Zuku. Russell
Southwood spoke to its CEO Simon Bransfield-Garth about its
Azuri Technologies' Bransfield-Garth has seen a major shift in the
rural areas of Kenya:"We went to Kenya in 2011 and everybody was
buying a little solar light. That was the big thing they wanted.
Things have now moved way beyond that. They now want a reasonable
approximation to mains electricity. It's moved to a need phone
charging and wanting a TV."
"It's a bit like PC buying in the 1980s in the UK. You had to put
everything together. It's the same for a solar powered TV. You can
get the TV but you're not sure what channels you can get. What we
wanted to offer was an integrated solution and we've done that
through a partnership with Zuku."
The integrated solution includes a satellite dish, a decoder and
solar power plus a content package. The Zuku Smart+ entertainment
package gives the user 48 TV and 21 radio channels:"It's got all the
national channels plus a bunch of international channels including
BBC World. There are Zuku specific channels including Zuku Sports,
Zuku Swahili, Zuku Kids, Zuku Life Glam and Zuku Nolly:" The TV is
something that would not look out of place in the developed world
and we're offering it on a Pay-As-You-Go basis."
Priced at Kshs 149 ($1.50) per day, users can get a complete home
power package including a 24-inch television (designed to work on
low power and made in China) with built in Satellite TV service
providing up to 5 hours of normal viewing per day, four room lights,
mobile phone charging and a rechargeable portable radio:"We're
bringing TV to people who've never had it before. It's a future
Users make payment using mobile money. Once payment has been made to
Azuri Technologies, the user gets a text message to his or her
mobile phone. This gives them a code number that they type into the
unit and this provides them with the amount of credit they've paid
for. When the system runs out of credit, it locks the user out.
Payment can be made for as little as a week.
Only launched in December last year, it has so far - not
surprisingly – only sold in the hundreds:"There are 12 million
household and only 5 million have TVs. Most of them in rural and
peri-urban areas don't have a TV. Our traditional markets are in
rural areas and the Government is keen to get TV-take-up.
Although there is no data yet, Bransfield-Garth estimates that there
are between 0.5 million and 1 million households have solar lighting
systems. Solar TVs of this sort will probably be smaller in number
but around the hundreds of thousands.
This package is the first of what is designed to become a family of
products with different content and partnerships and even larger
TVs:"We wanted to set a baseline and to offer a product that's not
at the bottom of the range. It's not a case of 'it's better than
nothing'." This is fighting talk and obviously aimed at the much
smaller screen m-Kopa product that we covered last year:
Azuri Technologies sells its other solar products in 12 countries
including Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, Ghana, Sierra Leone,
Togo, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Angola:"There's potential to roll-out in
the balance of countries we operate in. We need to find the right
What do you think the most promising out of these countries will
be?:"There are real opportunities in all of them"
Zuku Satellite TV CEO Jay Chudasama said: "This is a very exciting
opportunity we are giving our customers and viewers to have more
choices and enjoy the experience to watch over 40 Zuku TV channels
that offers high-quality and affordable family entertainment with
emphasis on the local content".
Customers can enjoy local free-to-air channels, international
channels and Zuku branded channels including Zuku Sports, Zuku
Swahili, Zuku Kids, Zuku Life Glam and Zuku Nolly.
Customers pay the top-up rate via mobile money, allowing customers
to use the system as much as they want for the credit period. After
as little as 2 years of payments, customers will own the equipment
and continue to pay only for the satellite service. The service is
initially available in selected regions of Central Kenya and will be
rolled out progressively nationwide in 2017.
Balancing Act: Telecoms, Internet and Broadcast in Africa
Mobile Money helped 2 percent of households in Kenya rise out of
6 January 2017
Being able to send and receive money by cell phone has helped lift
194,000 households in Kenya out of poverty, according to a study
published Thursday in the journal Science. Women especially have
benefitted from the spread of mobile money, which has helped many
move from farming into business, economists say.
With mobile money, people can transfer funds back and forth over
text. By the end of last year, these services had reached 93
countries; in Kenya, they are now used by 96 percent of households.
Kenya's dominant mobile money service, M-PESA ("M" stands for
mobile, and "pesa" is Swahili for money), launched in 2007.
There are only 2,700 ATMs in Kenya, but 96 percent of households use
a cell phone. M-PESA is appealing, particularly in rural areas,
because you don't need a bank account or internet connection to use
Kenya now hosts more than 110,000 mobile money agents—people who can
help users deposit cash into their accounts or pick up payments
others have sent them. "You can think of them as simply human ATMs,"
says coauthor William Jack, a professor of economics at Georgetown
The service is cheap (although not free), and can be used to
purchase goods or send money to friends and family. "It's not
integrated with another financial product like a credit card," Jack
says. "There's only one institution involved, the cell phone
Mobile money is also useful because many families in Kenya are
dispersed across the country. "There will be a brother or son who
works in Nairobi and sends money home to his mom, there'll be a
husband who works in Mombasa an sends money up country for school
fees," Jack says.
Before the rise of mobile money, it was time-consuming and costly
for these families to share funds. "There was no easy way to do that
electronically; people would literally take two or three days off
work and catch a bus 1,000 kilometers to deliver 30 or 40 dollars
and then come back," Jack says. "Mobile money allowed that process
to happen literally at the press of a button, and at relatively low
To find out how these services have helped people over time, Jack
and his colleague, Tavneet Suri of MIT, surveyed households around
the country between 2008 and 2014. The team examined how financial
wellbeing changed as mobile money agents became more plentiful in
"It's kind of like saying, if you can get better access to an agent,
how is your life different?" Jack says. "On average, they're a bit
Jack and Suri estimate that access to mobile money has helped bring
2 percent of Kenya's households out of poverty, with the most marked
benefits seen in families headed by women. They believe that access
to M-PESA has helped 185,000 women save more and start businesses.
"Mobile money might have been more convenient, it might be safer, it
might be more private," Jack says.
Mobile money is also beginning to offer more sophisticated financial
services like M-Shwari, a bank account that people can operate
through M-PESA. "It has been integrated with a couple banks to
provide a credit service and a savings service," Jack says. "People
have talked about insurance being provided over the phone."
Being able to use mobile money hasn't made people rich. "It's not
clear how far above the poverty line they went," Jack says. But
fewer homes are surviving on less than $2 a day.
M-PESA gives people a way to safely store and manage money, and this
directly improves their financial wellbeing, he and Suri concluded.
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