How tech is changing lives of Kenyans one app at a time


Kenyans are known globally to be tech-savvy due to their fast adoption of new innovations and the fact that the country has one of the highest mobile phone penetrations in Africa.

Majority of Kenyans now say digital services have improved their diverse areas of their lives, according to new survey.

A report on Kenya’s Digital Economy by a global advisory firm, Dalberg shows about 84 percent of Kenyans use digital services such as sending and receiving money on mobile money, social media, access to news, information, farming, government digital platforms and selling and buying online.

It adds that increasing adoption of digital devices and services in the country is helping reduce the digital divide and improving standards of living.

Some 74 percent respondents indicated that internet is important for meeting their day-to-day needs, with only 1.2 percent claiming it made their life worse.

“Most Kenyans see a better quality of life ...and some see improved economic conditions as a result of using digital devices and services. Unsurprisingly, the strongest impact that people experience is a greater sense of connection (92 percent),” the report states.

“Many users also believe that digital services support their individual needs. A sizable minority, 30 percent, have seen their income increase,” it says.

The survey focused on 2,456 households across the country.

Kenya’s digital economy has expanded over the years due to internet access and high mobile penetration at 130.3 percent, according to the Communications Authority of Kenya. Mobile subscriptions stands at 62 million, more than the 47.5 million population.

This has deepened digital economy adoption from basic use like sending and receiving money, buying data and airtime.

Kenyans are now using social media platforms for sending messages and entertainment, mobile banking, making payments for goods and supporting the mobile money agents.

Users have also upgraded to advanced services such as education, entertainment, looking for jobs, farming, seeking government services as well as health information.

The Dalberg report shows that 44 percent of self-employed people and business owners use digital services to support their businesses. Out of this, 86 percent use these services to communicate with customers and vendors.

And while adoption of e-commerce remains low, 56 percent are aware of the services. However, retailers and shoppers prefer the social media platforms such as Facebook with only 13 percent of Kenyans using marketplace platforms like Jumia and Kilimall.

Other digital services are being utilised for trade opportunities including payments, logistics, checking streets names and asset recognition including mapping and tracking commodity ownership.

The survey states that 49 percent of Kenyans use e-governance platform, with 81 percent using Huduma Centres which offer digital services.

The research, however, reveals that the use of digital services to support farming is still low as 45 percent of farmers are not aware of the service. Just 13 percent use the service to support livelihoods including communication with customers, vendors and suppliers.

About 10 percent use advanced services for buying inputs and selling goods while 15 percent use it for knowledge sharing and learning.

The report comes at a time when the country’s deepening use of digital services has provided room for local and foreign innovators and app creators.

This has seen adoption of start-ups such as agri-tech app for farmers, DigiFarm; e-commerce platforms such as Jumia, Sendy, Safeboda; financial products for savings and credit including M-Shwari, M-Kesho, Branch, Tala; and ed-tech, such as Eneza that provides primary and secondary academic materials.

The country has also experienced an upsurge of services such as M-Kopa and M-Gas.

“Kenya has established itself as a go-to country for many start-ups looking to test and launch digitally enabled products and services. Kenya has one of the most advanced agri-tech ecosystems in Sub-Saharan Africa. Approximately 30 percent of the SSA’s agri-tech start-ups operate and 18 percent maintain headquarters in the country,” the report states.

“Many of these services are increasingly benefiting individuals and businesses.”

The government has also been aggressive in digitising services such as visa application, tax returns with e-visa and i-tax respectively, renewal of driver’s licence and business registration through the e-Citizen online portal. The State has also set up Huduma Centres in counties, in a move aimed at improving service delivery and increasing revenue.

Digitising government services is also expected to enhance ease of doing business and increase global competitiveness.

Almost half of Kenyans 45 percent see digital IDs improving their access to digital services, although it is yet to start operating.

Dalberg said majority of Kenyans cited concerns of digital fraud, digital harassment, access and affordability of internet and devices, limiting the use of digital services.

Thirty percent of the respondents have experienced digital fraud.

About 96 percent of people in the rural areas especially farmers, homemakers, older people and people with disabilities use the phone for basic purposes of communication, sending and receiving money.

E-commerce users have highlighted lack of precise street addresses, high delivery fees and product quality as the major hindrance to use of digital services

The uptake of digital health and education has also been limited by inadequate resources in some households.

Only 15 percent of respondents are aware of digital health, while 35 percent of those who are aware are using digital health services mostly for consultation with health workers (50 percent) and payment for services or medicine using mobile money (35 percent).

“Challenges with platform costs and lack of trust limit usage. 30 percent of users of digital health services feel costs are too high and 30 percent don’t trust doctors they don’t know and can’t see,” it added.