Kenya is firmly part of a tale in which more than half of global population—3.96 billion people or 51 percent of humans on earth--now uses social media.
This is an increase of 376 million new users since July 2019, which translates to about 12 new users every second, according to a recently published global digital report for July by We Are Social in partnership with Hootsuite.
Kenya continues to be a technology hub in sub-Saharan Africa, where 17 percent of its population uses social media, a growth of one percent since January 2019. This makes Kenya 3rd in Africa after Egypt (42 percent) and South Africa (37 percent).
The data in the report was sourced from various sources such as market research agencies, internet and social media companies, governments and public organisations, news media, journalists, and internal analysis.
However, even with these rising figures, the digital landscape is still uneven geographically and in terms of gender. The report notes that there are 1.2 men for every woman using social media around the world today, but there are encouraging signs that the global social media has narrowed from 45:55 split (women and men) at the start of 2020 to 46:54 in July 2020.
Social media platforms have continued to permeate every aspect of people’s daily lives. Seven in 10 internet users, according to the report, are still spending more time using mobile phones now, compared to pre-pandemic times.
The report notes that Facebook has continued to dominate all social media platforms globally, with 2.6 million monthly active users, while two billion people use WhatsApp. The internet, and particularly social media, have been useful in helping people cope with the pandemic, enabling them to support their children’s education, stay in touch with friends and even improve their mental wellbeing.
Kenya’s internet speeds improved from 15.53 Mbps in January 2019 to 21.3 Mbps in July 2019 making it third in Africa with the highest internet speeds after South Africa (33.7 Mbps) and Morocco (35.5 Mbps). However, Kenya’s figures are still below the global average of 34.7 Mbps.
The report also details a survey on the use of image recognition tools in mobile phones whereby it found out that 45 percent of internet users aged 16-64 use image recognition tools (e.g. search lenses) on their phones each month in Kenya – making it the first in Africa and position nine globally, where the global percentage is at 34 percent.
In terms of online news consumption, that is, those who use digital media (including social media) to access news content, Kenya comes second globally with a score of 90 percent after Greece which has 92 percent. The global average is 82 percent. Interestingly, only Kenya and South Africa appear in the global 40, with the US coming at position 35. Still, on online news consumption, the report notes that 93 percent of Kenyan internet users access video news in a week making it position one globally at par with Turkey. The global average is 67 percent. It shows that video news has a huge audience among internet users in Kenya.
In terms of using social media platforms as a source of news, Kenya takes the first position globally with a score of 77 percent while Chile and South Africa come second and third with a score of 73 percent. The global average is 55 percent. This shows how social media in Kenya is an important source of news with news outlets considering social media platforms for a key platform for breaking news.
The report also reveals the overall trust in news media globally- the percentage of people who say they can trust most news of the time regardless of the medium or channel. Some 50 percent of Kenyan respondents mentioned they have high trust in news media, making it first in Africa and sixth globally, with a global average at 38 percent.
In terms of trust in social media use to access news, Kenya still takes the first position in Africa and sixth globally with a score of 34 percent. But even with these positive figures, the report showed that Kenyans are concerned about misinformation on the internet. Kenya had a score of 76 percent which made it second globally at par with Portugal. The global average is 56 percent.
Social media grand search
Other interesting statistics about Kenya in the report include data on time spent using social media. Kenyans spend an average of three hours and 34 minutes each day on social media as of July, which was up from two hours and 47 minutes in January 2019.
Nigeria comes second globally and first in Africa at three hours and 42 minutes while the global average is two hours and 22 minutes.
Kenya also scored highly for social media brand search globally. This referred to the number of individuals between who use social media when they are looking for more information about a brand. Kenya took the first position globally at 88 percent, followed by Nigeria and Ghana. The global average was at 42 percent. That means that brands need to better their social media presence for the Kenyan market.
With these statistics, especially the fact that half of the world is now using social media, it is time to rethink how we use these platforms for socio-political and economic purpose. Social media now permeates every sphere of our lives. Despite these impressive figures, old media such as TV and radio will still not be replaced by digital media - the same way working from home will not replace the office and e-commerce will not replace physical stores.
Mwaura, is a doctoral fellow in the Department of Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.