The Digital Age: 8 ways technology has changed Kenyan businesses

Business began with the barter of items between people and communities. It then shifted to having cowry shells and eventually money as a legal tender for trade. While money now remains the key component of trade, technology, which in this article refers to the advancement in communication and Information technologies, has fast risen to join these ranks as well.

Today, business operations are characterized by transacting via Mpesa, communicating through Skype with colleagues in different continents, using Twitter to track global trends, managing multiple email and bank accounts from smartphones, creating communities and getting instant consumer feedback on Facebook, networking with fellow professionals on LinkedIn, sharing photos, music and stories on You tube, Sound cloud and WhatsApp, launching brands on Instagram, getting breaking updates from news apps, selecting, ordering meals and trading goods online, among many more.

The digital revolution has changed how business is conducted as more consumers embrace the emerging technological trends. Here is a look at how technology has changed Kenyan businesses;

1. Speed – Standing in long queues is now a thing of the past thanks to mobile and online applications such as e-banking, Mpesa and Paypal. At the quick click of a button from wherever you are, transactions are achievable for banking, purchasing, water bills, electricity bills and many other payments. The speed of doing business in Kenya has definitely improved.

2. Communication – Instead of using clerks and snail mail (Post Office), businesses are now able to exchange messages clearly and quickly via emails, SMS, online chats, websites and personal digital products apps. This allows companies to reach their consumers in real time, send customized messages and receive feedback necessary for improvement.

3. Reach – Thanks to the developing infrastructure, communication and business transactions are now able to reach a wider audience by establishing interlinked branches even in remote areas such as Turkana. This enables the development of businesses in those regions and improves the profitability of the business.

4. Reliability and relativity – The customer is always right, thus Kenyan businesses that have mastered the use of technology to innovate and improve their customer relations through call centers, social media and customized websites, have experienced a growing client base, client retention and profits.

5. Information archiving –Kenyan businesses are spending less on paper and archive space by replacing their big, heavy and complex filing systems with more compact computer storage devices and cloud storage systems. This way, data can be accessed from anywhere anytime by authorized members.

6. Cost reduction – Some business processes such as IT management, customer service and Publicity can be outsourced at a cheaper rate and managed remotely by a business. This lowers operation costs which is beneficial to most local businesses.

7. Workers Efficiency – More businesses are adopting computer programs and business software which allow employees to process more information than manual methods. In addition, business owners are also implementing business technology such as accounting and design software to reduce the cost and amount of human labor in business functions. This coupled with ease of access to information about competing companies, goes a long way in giving a business competitive advantage.

8. Mobile Payment Platforms. Using platforms like Mpesa has helped customers easily pay their bills and not default on payments. This is great for businesses which are now able to better plan for their businesses by projecting revenue based on past money remitted on the mobile platforms. It has also made it cheaper and more efficient for businesses to transact as they can get money from the bank using the mobile money platforms without having to go to the bank. Businesses can also send money to their banks without leaving their premises using these platforms. This means there is less risk of being robbed and also lessens time spent at the bank. Because of the ledgers like the one for Mpesa businesses can also monitor what is going in and out of the business and manage payments to suppliers etc.

Although technology has proved quite beneficial to businesses, there are still some problems that may be very costly to companies. For instance system failures, cyber crime, identity theft and high costs of IT investments.

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