iFreedoms Kenya, an initiative of the Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) recently released the third edition of the State of the Internet Report, an annual report that maps out the country’s digital rights landscape. In an election year where internet subscribers hit 51 million; bloggers, social media, new policies and court cases made the internet abuzz with activity, here are the highlights.
Mobile and Internet In Kenya
According to the report, the country had 41 million mobile subscribers in the first quarter of 2017, with 90.4 % of Kenyans owning a mobile phone-a significantly high mobile penetration rate. In the world of applications, the 10 most downloaded Apps in Kenya were Uber, Instagram, Facebook, Branch, Facebook Messenger, Trucaller, Tala, Facebook Lite, Whatsapp and Opera Mini. Two of the top ten apps (Tala and Branch ) are financial technology (FinTech) applications; a testament to the increased prevalence of digital finance in the country.
An interesting fact in the report is that out of Kenya’s 51 million internet/data subscribers, 99% were mobile phone users (close to 21 million had smartphones). Businesses, NGOs and governments, would better make their websites mobile friendly to reach more users. The report further indicates that 10.1 million people use a computer to browse, while 3.3 million people use tablets. The most popular sites in Kenya are search engines, sports, gaming and betting websites, sites with adult content, social media platforms; and entertainment platforms (TV and video).
Social Media And Blogging
The report established WhatsApp, Youtube and Facebook as the most popular social media platforms at 12 million, 8 million and 7.1 million users respectively according to Nendo, a Kenyan digital strategy, research and training agency. In regards to blogging, bloggers created a majority of the content online ranging from, videos, social media shares and updates, and even journalistic news articles. The blogging industry in Kenya has increased investor interest. For instance, production company Whats Good Studios (WGS) made an investment in entertainment blog Niaje in 2016. While media group Ringier, invested in entertainment blog Ghafla (although the two companies parted ways after three months)
Additionally, the report details the rising trends of podcasting and bots in Kenya. Citing the development of the #UchaguziBot in 2017 on the Telegram app, which was capable of quickly answering questions and providing users with information, about who was running for which electrical position in last year’s general election. This was an improvement from the 438 pages the IEBC used to provide the same information on its website. Podcasting (preparing and distributing audio programs over the internet) also increased in popularity in Kenya- a survey conducted found that as of January 2017, the total number of listeners for six podcasts in Kenya was 2,046.
Digital Rights In Kenya
The report mapped events from November 2016-December 2017 that affected digital rights in the country. A notable development was when the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) co-authored a set of guidelines with the Communications authority that became a bone of contentions with the Bloggers Association of Kenya. The guidelines required that publishers reveal their identity when publishing social media content and that the language used to be ‘civilised, avoiding a tone and words that constitute hate speech, ethnic contempt and incitement to violence.’
The guidelines under contention were addressed in court in the 2016 Geoffrey Andare Case where the High Court determined that an authority could not impose sanctions on entities it did not license and that the limitations of the guidelines did not conform to those envisaged by the Constitution, noting that the terms “civilised language”, “intimidating” are not known in law.
The Rise Of Cyber-bullying
The report details the suicide of a 29-year old lady who took her life after facing ridicule on the Facebook group ‘Buyer Beware’, where she had gone to seek help. The group’s members mocked her for yielding to a police officer’s sexual advances, an event that had happened when the woman was seeking help on a case concerning the defilement of her three-year-old daughter. In order to be able to properly respond to such instances, the Kenya Computer and Cyber-crimes Bill was enacted in 2017 and in it, crimes related to cyber-bullying and cyber-stalking are addressed.
The report recommends that going forward into 2018, relevant laws and policies such as the Draft National ICT Policy and the Information Communication Technology Practitioners Bill, should be prioritised for review and public consultation respectively. Additionally, the report recommends creating of an enabling environment and awareness campaigns for cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. Blockchain is the technology behind the online currency bitcoin, which has applications in various areas like managing land registries and agriculture yet little has been done to encourage its adoption. Check out Bitcoin: Tales From A Crypto Bubble