Mozilla research: Kenyans are offline due to prohibitive costs, security fears

Jochai Ben-Avie, Senior Global Policy Manager at Mozilla.

A Mozilla-backed research, carried out by Research ICT Africa, found that the significant barrier to internet access in Kenya is due to prohibitive costs and security fears.

“While internet access is good in Kenya relative to elsewhere in Africa, real barriers remain to internet use,” Research ICT Africa Executive Director Dr Alison Gillwald, said in a press statement.

“If we don’t look beyond access issues to the real concerns around privacy and security, for example, we’ll never bring all of the internet to all people.”

The Communications Authority of Kenya reports that some 38 million people – about 82 percent of the population – were online in 2016. The four mobile operators in the country have 4G internet connections on mobile but not in all parts of the country.

Researchers’ findings include:

Social media tops the list of uses for the internet and there is even a perception among some users that the internet is about social media.

The price of data bundles and internet-enabled phones render the cost of doing what most users want to do online prohibitive to many.

Strategic solutions for high costs include working late into the night before reward bundle periods expire, visiting friends who have Wi-Fi at home, and using multiple promotions from different operators.

Even when people have smartphones, they do not always carry them for offline security reasons. In particular, there are concerns that, thieves may frequent areas with free public Wi-Fi in order to steal patrons’ internet enabled devices

National network coverage was seen to be a challenge for both voice and data particularly in rural areas.

“One participant in this study reported concerns about getting skin cancer from their phone, proving there’s a lot more we still need to do to improve digital (and health) literacy,” said Mozilla Senior Global Policy Manager Jochai Ben-Avie. “At the same time, Kenyan internet penetration is on par with some of the most developed countries, and that’s due to the ingenuity of Kenyans to find ways to connect despite the relatively high cost of data.”

Online security in Kenya

Apart from physical security, it was recently revealed that Kenya’s cybercrime threat landscape changes at different times of the year. One of the most popular time of year for increased cyber-criminal activities affecting the country is during its election time.

This was said by Mr. Robert Mugo, CEO, ICT Authority, during a press briefing at the second annual Africa Security Summit held at the Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya.

“Threat landscape changes depending on different times of the year. Especially now when we have elections coming up, we tend to see a lot of spike in activities in terms of cybercrime,” said Mr. Mugo.

With Kenya’s election day just around the corner, set to be on the 8th of August 2017, Mr. Mugo noted that the government is taking actions to limit such interruptions by malicious people in the form of heavy investment aimed towards updating and upgrading the government’s cyber security systems.

“With Government digitizing all its systems, we have realized there is an increase in cyber related crimes targeting Government agencies. The Government currently has a plan underway to invest close to USD 50 million to help secure its systems.” Added Mr. Mugo.

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