At a time when there was much negative news about terrorism and other vices about Kenya, it made its way to CNN news for an excellent reason. The reason was that Intelligent Community Forum had named Nairobi the capital city for the second year in a row been named as the most intelligent city in Africa for the second year in a row. It was the sole African city to be on shortlist of 21 global ICT hubs.
Intelligent Community Forum, a global cities and regions network, is a US based think tank helping communities to use ICT for prosperity, tackling social and governance challenges to enrich the quality of life.
For its research, education, and awards program ICF studies how intelligent communities use ICT to achieve success in broad band economy. That is how Nairobi Kenyan capital made its way into the global news.Since then ICT in Kenya has been thriving and leading the ICT field in Africa. These are some of the reasons attributable to the performance.
Network of Fiber-Optic Cable
Laying of first East African Marine System (TEAMS) cable that reached the sea shore in 2009 was a significant step in increasing internet access. TEAMs as was a government initiative to link Kenya to the rest of the world through a submarine cable. The launch multiplied opportunities to access mainstream and fast speed internet. It allowed universities to success subsidized broadband and creation of startup hubs. The resulting price wars between internet service providers especially mobile network operators brought an enabling environment for the easy exchange of ideas, information and running of tech oriented businesses.
Fast Internet Speed
The ‘silicon savannah’ cannot be there without fast, cheap Internet infrastructure. Kenya has a fast internet speed, the 14th highest in the world as per a report by Akamai, a content delivery network collecting data in over 130 countries.
The average data connection speed in Kenya is 13.7 megabits/second during the first quarter of 2017. This speed is almost double that of the global average. 13Mbps is faster than the Unites States and even South Korea which has fastest average fixed internet connection.
The presence of capable coders and inventive engineers has led to the invention of new web applications unique to the East African country. A real example is M-Pesa a money transfer application from one cell phone number to another. The invention rode on the fact that in 2007 at the time of introduction into the market, only 5% of the Kenyan population had bank accounts. A high number registered to transfer funds on the app as they saw it as a solution for their financial freedom.
It has since opened the way for other money transfer apps including:
Other notable inventions are:
Ma3Route: A dedicated twitter feed for traffic updates to enable users to submit up –to-minute reports on the roads that are running smoothly and those to avoid due to traffic jams.
M-Farm: Allows small scale farmers to know the price of their crops at the touch of a button on their cell phones.
Strong- A tool to gather, crunch and visualize crowd sourced data about various events from elections to disasters. It began as evidence collection platform for post –election violence in 2008 but is now advanced open software for large organizations including the UN. It has led to the creation of over 60,000 maps detailing elections, environmental issues and abuse of human rights in over 150 countries and 31 languages-
Mobile Internet Supply
Up to 88 percent of Kenyans access the internet through their mobile phones. The cost of smartphones in the country has dropped significantly, and many people use the gadgets to access the internet especially social media platforms and news blogs. The lower cost of data to the calling and texting rates has been fuelling the habit. Mobile telephone companies have been selling data bundles at discounted rates adding the time and number of people who access data through their cell phones. Currently, different operators offer multiple promotions. Free Wi-Fi access in homes, offices, and hotspots in urban areas is gradually increasing internet penetration among the masses.
Close collaboration with the tech community, government, and private sector have been generating more opportunities for growth of ICT. There are also various functions that require the use ICT such as tax returns, online trading, application and renewing of government documents that will require new inventions and upgrading of existing technology. Kenyan ICT sector will have every reason to continue its speedy growth.