Connecting the Next African Users

By Nasubo Ongoma
  Published 18 Sep 2018
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Kenyans are increasingly using the internet to connect, learn, collaborate, transact etc... According to the 2018 Global Digital Report, there are 4 billion internet users in the world, with nearly 250 million new users/subscribers (20% from Africa). The global internet capacity has declined, but the trend on the African continent is the reverse. As we seek to increase the number of users, it is prudent to acknowledge the widening digital divide. Society is largely unequal, resources are unevenly distributed, this is not only limited to access, but also digital and literacy skills.

So, how can we overcome these barriers and help connect the next user? Kenya’s statistics has 36.1 million internet subscriptions and 35.7 million mobile subscriptions. 80% of the population is less than 35 years old (with a child high dependency rate). Kenya and Africa in general has a younger population, with a basic education and the majority using the mobile to connect to the Internet. Shouldn’t this populace be given the chance to fully explore the power of the digital space and achieve heights we did not deem possible? It calls for a change in our actions from reactionary to strategic in order to create long term sustainable mechanisms as we bring more people online. I will explore how we can team up to do this:

Policy Advocacy

Working together to champion for public resource allocation for underserved and rural communities, marginalised and at-risk groups. This may be in the form of advocating for tax breaks or incentives on ICT innovations and developing robust digital literacy curricula. By no means is this exhaustive, it requires a joint effort from all sectors.

Web Optimisation

Most people access the Internet via the mobile, it is important to optimise applications to the mobile. The needs of the consumer have changed, consumers want fast applications with zero downtime. Google ranks lower websites with slow load times, developers need to rethink how they build their applications. I envision a world where there is seamless communication, faster load time, zero compatibility issues and no downtime. My ultimate, filing taxes via mobile? Could we have everything running on the cloud?

Digital literacy

Equipping students with the skills needed to survive the digital world to ensure that there is no one left behind. The objective is to have citizens who are able to fully utilize digital tools and increase online participation. When citizens are equipped with digital literacy skills they can tackle misinformation and protect and safeguard themselves online.

Encourage Multilingualism online

Kenya has over 42 languages and an ever changing one, sheng. Most information passed from our elders was largely vocal, they say that the African culture is very diverse, could we start preserving this online?

At the heart of technology is people, they consume, produce and interact with technology. As we strive to bring the next 1 billionth user, could we also work together to bridge the gap?

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