Infrastructure: Kenya’s existing infrastructure and approach to extending capacity is promising. Its combination of wireless broadband networks and fibre optic cable infrastructure could be a model for the rest of Africa, effectively addressing backhaul challenges by including electricity transmission and distribution lines alongside cables.1 The government has taken a lead role in providing infrastructure, as seen in the TEAMS project, while partnering with Safaricom and KDN to increase bandwidth across the country.
Usage conditions: Strong underlying conditions for usage have translated into significant Internet use. Internet access has grown tremendously to cover 34% of the population.2 Thirty-seven percent of the population at the base of pyramid have Internet-enabled mobile phones and 25% report Internet use. Broadband use, however, remains low, with penetration rates below 1%.
Activity and impact across sectors: A plethora of programmes across agriculture, health and the SME sectors remain in pilot mode, few have reached large scale. Startups seem to have taken the front seat, but the backend systems that provide the foundation for growth and wider, deeper impact receive less attention. National ID systems and large scale, interoperable health information platforms, for example, have been stalled or shelved, while consumer apps continue to procure donor funding.4 Integration of apps to government platforms has been slow limiting commercial viability of apps and the social economic impact. Mobile money and eCommerce are beginning to converge through applications like Pesapal, though eCommerce policy and protection of transactions is still murky. More financial products are likely to emerge as Safaricom’s user growth on M-Pesa, currently 18% of the company’s revenue, plateaus. Widespread access to these payment platforms has enabled service delivery across other sectors, such as rent-to-own solar financing through mKopa, consumer health savings products, and livestock and crop insurance.
Role of government: Kenya’s government leadership has been widely acclaimed, particularly for its drive to increase access to bandwidth. Its next hurdle will be to drive backend digitisation initiatives to create shared platforms and systems for new applications and consumer solutions. Having a standardised platform for, for example, a national ID system, would allow private sector developers to build additional eGovernment service portals and add-ons that are compatible. Driving broadband growth in the health and education sectors, meanwhile, will help achieve the respective Ministry policy goals to extend learning and training services via the web.