Smartphones have been the acme of the of the information age, gaining popularity in every corner of the globe, even in underdeveloped countries. In Kenya, the rise of the smartphone coincided with the emergence of the middle class, and a combination of these two could only give one result –many people would own smartphones.
Internet rates were high then, and smartphones could not be put in full use as more apps required internet access. Fast-forward to the current situation where the internet is affordable and slightly over 80% of Kenyans own a mobile phone. It is good for the economy, isn’t it? Every corner you go, you will find almost every man and woman has a phone, and they used it in many ways than just making calls.
As a developing country, Kenya is far behind first world countries in many facets of the economy. From industrial development to value of the currency, African countries are not viewed as a challenger. However, the impact of the middle class in the adoption of internet and cellular technology has put us on the map alongside the former industry shapers. In fact, African countries are likely to leapfrog developed countries on this front, as long as mobile phone prices and offers are kept in check.
Last year alone, 99% of new internet connections in Kenya were on mobile phones. In a country with a population of 45 million, approximately 24 million can access information that was deemed out of their reach recently. The number is expected to rise in the next few years.
There are many services, run as both smartphone apps and USSD services, that literary drive the economy. From M-Pesa to mobile baking services, the list is endless. Besides, these The internet has offered a new dimension in the information flow since most of the information in Kenya comes from Nairobi, the capital city, although the country is developed. Breaking news can now be received instantly without the need of a television set or a radio.
Kenyan mobile app developers have entered the scene and embarked on developing smartphone applications that are tailored for the market. Aside from employment opportunities for website and app developers, bloggers and social media managers, online shopping has emerged and the response so far is phenomenal. A similar situation is evident in internet service providers, where the need for internet connections is on the rise. All these have had a positive impact on the local economy.
As much as there is a rapid growth, it remains to be seen whether the smartphone and internet revolution in the country will bridge the gap between Kenya and its developed counterparts, as there is access to information on every front.