Logged on to jobs: The employment boom in Kenya’s Internet penetration

High-speed internet has expanded opportunities, opening up vast territories and reshaping the economic landscape

04 Mar 2017 . 2,657 Views

Kenya’s growing access to the Internet is firing up its development engines and riding on its tech-savvy youth to contribute to its expanding economy, two foreign ambassadors based in the country have said.

This technology-based economic growth is premised mostly on the country’s youthful generation, which constitutes more than half of the country’s population, say Siddharth Chatterjee, the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya, and Victor Ronneberg, Norway’s Ambassador to Nairobi, in a January 2017 commentary.

However, they warn that despite the impressive economic growth, lack of employment means there is no commensurate social transformation. Kenya needs to create one million new jobs every year to keep up with the economic needs of its expanding population, which welcomes 3,000 newborns every day.

The two diplomats, however, say there exists a huge opportunity in technology to help fill the large unemployment gap.

“A large generation of tech-savvy youth is already driving up the Internet’s contribution to Kenya’s GDP,” they say. “Current estimates show that by 2025 this contribution to GDP could grow to at least five to six per cent”

With one of the fastest internet penetration rates on the continent, Kenyan youth can exploit information technology for various value-addition ventures in agri-business, say the two diplomats.

We are making tremendous effort in investing in the extension of the fibre-optic cable. We are looking at going to 24 counties by the end of the year. We want to bridge the digital divide and that is why we are investing in this area. We will also keep investing in innovations that enhance our customers’ experiences by becoming a platform that offers more solutions like we have done with solutions like Little Ride and Eneza. Bob Collymore, Safaricom CEO.

Safaricom is looking to harness this development-through-internet potential by supporting technological knowhow and access to information, which is the thinking behind its investments in high-speed internet for business and Fibre-to-Home. Fibre-for-Business targets Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs).

Currently, the company is rolling out high-speed Internet across the country and has so far covered Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Eldoret, Malindi, Machakos, Nanyuki and Kakamega.

The Internet is delivered through fibre technology, which has unlimited bandwidth capabilities and offers high-speed data connectivity. This year, says Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore, the telco will spend Sh30 billion to improve its network.

“We are making tremendous effort in investing in the extension of the fibre-optic cable. We are looking at going to 24 counties by the end of the year,” says Mr Collymore.

“We want to bridge the digital divide and that is why we are investing in this area. We will also keep investing in innovations that enhance our customers’ experiences by becoming a platform that offers more solutions like we have done with solutions like Little Ride and Eneza.”

Besides Fibre-for-Business, other propositions targeted at the SMEs include Easy50 and Ready Business. The Easy50 data bundle for SMEs offers up to 50GB of data on Safaricom’s network and can be accessed by up to 10 devices using a wireless router or smartphone as a hotspot for a flat monthly rate of Sh6,000.

The ‘Ready Business’ platform bundles together various technology and advisory services to empower entrepreneurs tackle challenges of a rapidly changing business landscape.

“Additionally, work has commenced to connect 23,000 public secondary schools to the Safaricom network to offer free internet to students,” says Mr Collymore.
The telco has also rolled out 4,000 kilometres of fiber, reaching over 20,000 homes.

“We recently set out to connect more homes to the Internet by erecting poles to deliver fibre cables faster and more cost-effectively to residences,” says Mr Collymore. “Under the new initiative, fibre cables will be delivered aerially on the poles to connect estates across the country.”

Initially, the poles will be erected in estates within the major cities of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru and Eldoret, before expanding to cover the rest of the country.

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