Kenya’s foray into the digital economy has hailed it as one of the progressive markets in Africa. With its mobile phone penetration hitting well over 100 per cent, coupled with high-quality internet services, the country is poised to be a bedrock of innovation.
However, this is only true in most urban areas but last-mile connectivity in rural and peri-urban areas leave a lot to be desired.
Kenya’s Economic Update, a report by World Bank has faulted the country for not investing much in the country’s internet backbone and leaving millions behind in the digital economy.
“Rural areas are typically served by a single fibre provider (predominantly government-owned), leading to less competitive pricing and lower service reliability. Often, small towns are not served with a fibre connection at all, resulting in slower end-user speeds due to reliance on microwave backhaul,” the report depicted.
In contrast, Kenya’s “first-mile” has been served by four undersea cables lowering the price of connectivity in the country. The competition between the service provides has seen wholesale international transit pricing has fallen from about USD 7,500 Mb/s per month in 2007 when connectivity was provided primarily via satellite to as low as USD 10 in 2018.
Network routes are often duplicative, with multiple links serving the main population centres, providing competition and protection against service disruption if a line is cut, the World Bank observed.
“Last-mile connections to the end-user are predominantly provided by the major Mobile Network Operators as well as some internet service providers, ranging from high-speed direct fibre connections to the home and businesses in urban areas to lower cost, lower performance wireless solutions in rural areas,” the report noted.
According to the report, the World Bank believes that the country’s economy can benefit from supporting digital infrastructure and enabling the majority to access affordable internet services.
“Every individual, business and government institution in Kenya needs access to affordable and high-quality broadband connectivity and the skills to use it in order to participate in the digital economy, access public services and information, and have a voice in an increasingly online society,” it denoted.
Despite impressive growth in investment and uptake of digital technologies, too many Kenyans remain at risk of being left behind. The significant social and economic benefits that accrue to digitally engaged individuals could further deepen inequality if the digital divide persists.
“A digital divide is also bad for business because the prospects for e-commerce and digital entrepreneurs depend on the growth of a digitally active customer base to create the scale needed for success,” the World Bank said.
Feature Image Courtesy: The Telegraph