Monday, January 17, 2022

Kenya leads Africa in access to Digital Infrastructure

Digital devices and services have improved the daily lives of 84% of Kenyans – while nearly one third said that it had boosted their incomesThese are among the key findings of a unique cross-country survey that provides a comprehensive and timely assessment of how Kenya’s aggressive investments in core digital infrastructure are having an impact at the level of individual Kenyans.

“With Kenya now embracing its digital economy as the foundation for creating an empowered society, it’s critical to capture how that is currently playing out in the everyday digital experience of Kenyans across the country,” said Naoko Koyama of Dalberg Advisors.

Naoko is the lead author of a report: “Kenya’s Digital Economy: A People’s Perspective” which has been funded by the Omidyar Network. “Given Kenya’s role as a regional leader in digital penetration and usage, we recognise the importance of capturing Kenyan’s perception on access, usage and impact of digital devices and services on their social and economic lives,” she added.

The survey highlights uptake in areas beyond mobile money including usage of digital services for supporting livelihoods, e-commerce and e-governance.

The study reveals that in the digital space:

  1. 94% of Kenyans use mobile money and
  2. 27% use e-governance services.
  3. 45% anticipate that the Huduma Namba will improve access to and usage of digital services.

The report is based on responses to a nationally representative survey conducted between November-December 2020 of more than 2400 Kenyans.

This survey offers a “people-centred” perspective that can be used by stakeholders to understand where to direct new investments as well as develop relevant policies that can accelerate Kenya’s next stage of digital development—one that can boost the livelihoods of Kenyans across the country at all income levels.

Despite the country’s undisputable digital transformation, the study revealed critical areas that if addressed would further deepen Kenyans’ participation in digital economy.

  • The national addressing system presents a critical opportunity within ongoing government efforts to unlock more e-commerce and digital trade opportunities. 40% of e-commerce platform users reported challenges in receiving deliveries due to lack of precise street addresses and logistics complications.
  • Efforts to address digital safety concerns are becoming an increasingly important factor in supporting Kenyans’ embrace of digital services. Many Kenyans are concerned about digital fraud and 30% report they have experienced it. 71% of small business owners and self-employed people say concerns about digital fraud limit their usage of digital services for business. Additionally, the study finds that greater user awareness and more robust redressal mechanisms are needed to enhance users’ protection. However, regulatory changes aimed at providing greater protection for individuals and businesses in their digital usage are already underway in Kenya, and globally.
  • The study reveals that access to hands-on support is critical in helping Kenyans deepen their use of some digital services. 81% of e-governance users have used Huduma Centres for support.

The study also confirms that Kenyans who are geographically, financially, or socially vulnerable are more likely to use only basic digital services – like sending and receiving payment on their mobile phones or topping up air-time. The study goes a step further by pointing out where the divide is most evident. Eighty-five percent of rural residents with lower than primary education, 45% people with disabilities, 44% of older people, and 37% of adult farmers / homemakers use only basic digital services or no digital services at all.

With regards to the gender divide, the study also corroborates the commonly understood gender divide in Kenya – 35% of women use advanced digital services users, compared to 54% of men.  The study sheds light on how through concerted effort and intervention, some advanced digital services that are reaching some portions of “typically left-behind” segments and helping to improve lives. A case in point being the agtech platforms which are transforming small-scale farmers, most of whom are female farmers, into agribusiness through digital capacity building and access to markets.

“The next few years offer an opportunity to build on Kenya’s exceptional digital progress–and to embrace lessons from surveys like this to advance the nation’s commitment to ensuring every citizen, enterprise and organization is participating in the digital economy,” said Robert Karanja, Director of Responsible Technology at Omidyar Network.


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Dickson Otieno
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