Opera stops free data offers in Kenya on regulatory changes

Opera has halted its free data campaigns in Kenya.

Photo credit: Pool

Norwegian web innovator Opera has halted its free data campaigns in Kenya following a regulatory policy by local authorities aimed at cracking down on advertisements displayed on speed dials, commonly known as bookmarks, within browsers.

The just-ended campaign, unveiled four years ago, has seen the multinational give Kenyan users up to 50 megabytes of free data daily.

“We had to pause investment and free Internet access in Kenya due to the decision of the local authorities to stop advertising on speed dials (bookmarks) within browsers. We are hoping for a solution so that we can once again provide free data to you, our valued customers in Kenya,” said Opera in an update.

Last August, the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) ordered certified betting firms to stop displaying advertisements on the speed dial internet feature of the Opera browser without regulatory authorisation.

A speed dial is a visual set of entries compiled from the list of a user’s most visited pages on a given browser. The speed dial entries appear as thumbnails that, once clicked, link to the pages. The BCLB order came hot on the heels of a petition by the Consumer Federation of Kenya, which had implored the licensing board to rein in Internet browser providers displaying betting ads against a set of guidelines issued earlier to protect minors.

Opera, which has 13.5 million users in Kenya who largely use feature phones, says in 2023 alone, it provided more than four million gigabytes of data for free via the drive, which was the equivalent of about Sh1.6 billion.

Last October, the firm announced that it would invest up to Sh14 billion in the African market to boost the data-saving capacity of its browser, out of which Sh2 billion would be injected into the Kenyan market, the multinational’s second-largest in Africa after Nigeria.

Multiple studies have in the past cited high Internet prices and low speeds as significant impediments to mobile internet use and e-commerce growth in Kenya.

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