, DIANI, Kenya, Mar 22 – Benjamin Musau knows first-hand the impact that the Internet can have in a person’s life.
The 25 year-old taxi driver who operates on the Uber platform explains that he made a net income of Sh80,000 last month and expects to make almost the same this month courtesy of the Internet enabled platform.
Musau, a Nairobi resident, is not alone.
Thousands of Nairobians are using the Internet to make the kind of incomes that they probably could not have.
The meaningful use of the Internet by a large number of youths in Nairobi is however to not be assumed to be a reflection of what is on the ground in other places around the country.
Take Salim Ali from Diani for example. The sole purpose of the data on his phone is to access social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.
“I am currently jobless having failed in my KCSE exams. I’ve made the effort of sending my Curriculum Vitae to several companies and hope to hear back from them,” he says. Does Ali know the potential of the device on his hands as far as job hunting or even starting his own business?
“Not really. I hardly use other apps on my phone; just the social sites to chat with my friends.”
His case is not different. According to Fernando Wangila, an IT Director at National Transport and Safety Authority, the meaningful use of the Internet seems to be failing especially among the youth.
“The issue of having Internet readily available is not an issue. What people do with it is what we need to think about.”
His sentiments are echoed by Alex Wong from the World Economic Forum.
What is the solution for helping youths such as Salim Ali to exploit the Internet’s full potential?
“The government has a role to play here. It needs to digitalise more of its functions that can especially drive development. This will get more people with internet access involved in more functions of the Internet apart from social media purposes,” Wangila says.
But wouldn’t that disadvantage the people without Internet connection?
“As the government works towards getting more people access the Internet, it also needs to train them on how to use the Internet.”
According to Wong, awareness is one of the crucial things needed as far as getting more people connected to the internet is concerned. “There are many people who have internet access but have no idea what to do with it. So they end up doing what they know best,” he says.