Kenyans are paying billions of shillings to access the internet, with most of the data bundles consumed on streaming music and videos, playing video games and networking with friends.
Other multiple reports point to such patterns of consumption, raising the debate on the value derived from the internet compared to the amount of money spent on purchasing data bundles.
Data from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) showed that last year, Kenyans spend 269 million gigabytes (GBs) of data and consumption is set to rise to 984 million GBs in 2022.
The findings, contained in the PwC’s Entertainment and media outlook report 2018/2022, put internet advertising revenue at $38 million (Sh3.8 billion) per year, showing how advertisers are chasing increasing eye balls online.
Leading telco, Safaricom, made Sh43 billion for selling mobile and fixed data in the financial year ended March 2018 as mobile data usage per subscriber grew by 56.3 per cent year-on-year to 421 megabytes. This means that it was generating Sh4.97 million per hour out of data consumed.
Internet usage has also brought new business models such as online companies whereby firms conduct most of their businesses on the internet. Global online business have sprung up easily than before contributing to economic growth and in job creation.
Consumers are also opening up to online shopping and fully fledged online companies such as Jumia and Masoko are already making strides. This points to a lot of unexploited internet opportunities.
But while these opportunities exist, multiple reports show that most of the activities that drive Kenyans online only consume revenue, offering self-gratification to users but no revenue in return.
By the end of September 2018, the total number of active internet and data subscriptions in the country stood at 42.2 million, according to Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) report.
“Digital connectivity plays an important role in transforming and improving lives, as it opens the door to employment, financial opportunities and unprecedented knowledge for billions of people across the globe,” the CA says.
The CA adds that mobile data subscriptions constitute 99.2 per cent of total data and internet subscriptions in the Kenya. This means that the majority of people can access the internet even when travelling.
The Authority tips the data and internet market in the country to grow significantly following increased rollout of 4G mobile network.
Despite presenting enormous opportunities such as e-commerce and knowledge search, internet usage in the country appears to be tilted away from this.
According to Nendo, a digital strategy and research firm that tracks consumer insights, Kenyans use their internet connectivity and mobile data bundles to access news, information and entertainment.
But a further breakdown of the sites visited shows that information on topics such as sex, football and gambling pre-occupies many online users.
For instance, sports betting company, SportPesa, has been the most “Googled” word by Kenyans every year from 2016 to 2018. This captures the gambling craze that is synonymous with many youth.
According to PwC, Kenya is the third largest gambling market after South Africa and Nigeria respectively in Africa in terms of revenues. Based on a 2017 Geopoll survey, Kenya had the highest number of millennials who take part in sports betting in sub-Saharan Africa.
The 2019 Financial Access (FinAccess) Household survey says that mobile money is being used on betting, with 2.7 per cent of males reporting to use mobile money on gambling.
“Kenya has two adult websites in its top 10 most-visited sites. This is greater than any other East and Central African country,” the firms adds.
Digital market intelligence platform Similarweb.com showed that in January, other top visited sites in Kenya were Google, Facebook, YouTube, Betin, Betpawa, and Sportpesa.
Whatsapp messenger, Facebook and online lending tool Tala were the most downloaded apps in 2018.
But despite this pattern, there have been so many opportunities created in the digital age. Digital connectivity has led to growth in e-businesses, helping connect them with customers.
Pew Research Centre, a US-based think tank, shows in latest report dubbed ‘Mobile Connectivity in Emerging Economies,’ a large majority say mobile phones have impacted positively on education and the economy. However, this has not been without risks too.
“When asked about the potential risks of mobile phone use, the majorities in every country say people should be very concerned that mobile phones might expose children to harmful or inappropriate content,” Pew says in a research covering 11 countries including Kenya.