How the Internet in Kenya will shape our lives in 2017 and beyond

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After a century of using taxis the way we have always known, something new and sensational arrived on the scene that totally disrupted the way humans have used that transport convenience.

Suddenly, you could hail your taxi, not by waving your hands frantically, but by tapping an icon on your phone from the comfort of your home, office or anywhere with phone coverage. As with all new changes, there was resistance. This particular one attracted massive resistance, particularly from traditional taxis that had cornered the market.

The resistance was real; we experienced raw violence in Nairobi, and even law suits in other countries.

But as French writer and poet Victor Hugo wrote at the turn of the 20th century, no force on earth can stop an idea whose time has come.

The Internet has brought the taxi rank to our mobile phones and everywhere we take our mobile phones; into offices, homes, boardrooms, bedrooms – everywhere.

The journey started with the Uber revolution and Little, a home-grown innovation available in Nairobi and Mombasa.

It’s one of the ways in which the physical and the digital are intersecting and how the Internet makes it all possible.

Today, it’s not just about taxis.

We have smart TVs with the capacity to connect to the Internet. We have smart fridges that track the products stored in there and to determine what needs to be replenished.

We have smart watches that can track and analyse our heartbeats and other healthy lifestyle indicators like how many steps we walked in a day. We have the Internet of everything that makes our homes smarter and our lives simpler.

Undoubtedly, the Internet has created opportunities for humans to find new, easier, cheaper and more convenient ways of doing what we have always done. The older generation understand mail to mean something that comes through the letterbox; the new generation only knows that which comes through the computer.

Kenya is one of the nations that leads the way in Africa. At Safaricom we clearly see the potential held by the Internet to transform lives. Every day, we’re working to ensure that we better the experiences of our customers and bring more solutions in answer to our customer needs.

The use of the Internet in Kenya can certainly change a number of key sectors for the better.

For one, it is a foregone conclusion that the availability of the Internet makes it easier and faster for children to learn. The Internet also makes commerce easier, faster and cheaper. One can now purchase goods from a seller virtually anywhere around the world and track its shipping to the door step.

Commerce, agriculture, education, health, lifestyle, entertainment, transport, banking, social connections are all key sectors which are now thriving through the Internet, their traditional models heavily disrupted.

At Safaricom, we continue to drive internet penetration through huge investments in laying fibre optic services and continuous investments in enhancing our network.

Last year, we saw tremendous growth of our 4G network. We now have more than 1,000 masts on 4G. That covers virtually every city and most counties.

We are taking fibre optic cable to the home. To date, we have reached more than 30,000 homes, a key milestone but still far from our target of making Internet readily available to majority of Kenyans.

The internet explosion is driving Smartphone penetration and integrating with security, enabling home owners to have real time CCTV footage streaming. The internet has disrupted old businesses like never before. Video and music is now streamed online, increasing consumption with the arrival of products such as Showmax and Netflix pushing data consumption significantly.
The expansion of the use of these new products is also driving up the use of M-PESA, a testament to how connectivity is revolving around the mobile phone.

When I look at the coming 12 months, I believe that these trends we have seen in the last year will continue.

This year, we expect to see the growth of the Internet of Things through our 4G network as the technology comes to the right level of standardization. We’re investing more in SIM management and SIM control so that we can inter-face with partners more seamlessly.

We already have players in e-commerce and it will become more and more natural with more and more confidence growing.

We are seeing 100 per cent data traffic growth every 12 months, meaning that we have to keep on investing heavily to ensure that our platforms are always ready for the rapidly shifting customer expectations.

We are hitting the right chord with our customers around the country, and the only way to meet and exceed their expectations is through appreciating their needs and requirements, and tailoring appropriate solutions for them.

(Rerolle is the Director, Technology at Safaricom)

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