Getting accurate data on Internet penetration, e-commerce usage and mobile phone usage in Kenya has not been easy because of the conflicting information that is always given by the relevant authorities. However, results from the last census by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics help shed light on the status of the country when it comes to ICT (Information and Communications Technology).

We look at a few parameters that were highlighted in the recently released results.

Mobile phone users

According to the 2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census, the number of mobile phone users in Kenya stands at 20.6 million.

In a country of 47,7 million with 50% being under the age of 18 years, the numbers seem to be what one can expect them to be. While the number of registered SIM cards at the end of 2018 stood at 49,8 million, the actual number of mobile phone owners is 20 million. This can be attributed to the ownership of multiple SIM cards and handsets, as well as ownership of SIM cards without owning devices which is common among young people.

The notable thing is that the majority of mobile phone owners are women, who also form the majority of the population.

Internet access in Kenya

Only 22,6 % of Kenyans aged 3 years and above use the Internet. This translates to 10 million Internet users in Kenya.

Previously, the Internet penetration in Kenya was reported to be over 100%, but it is important to note that this figure did not account for the actual number of Internet users in the country. It is an estimation of the number of people who could access the Internet.

The census results thus settle the speculation on the numbers and we can confidently say that there are 10 million Internet users in Kenya. Google says that there are about 13 million active Internet users in Kenya, higher than the figure in the census. This could be accounted for by the use of multiple devices and even Google accounts.

E-commerce statistics for Kenya

Only 4,3% of Kenyans aged 15 and above buy goods and services online.

This would translate to 1,2 million people or 2.5% of the total population.


The implications of Kenya's census data

In terms of market size, there is a big room to sell devices as the young population gets to purchasing age. For the next 18 years, at least a million people will be turning 18 years every year, this being the population that should be tech-savvy and that has lived all their life in the digital world.

On connectivity, a lot still needs to be done to get more people online. The rural areas are the ones that have a very limited connection, hence a need to focus on them. Digital inclusion is something Kenya will need to keep doing for the next few years.

E-commerce is still in the infancy stage. As more and more people get online, the number of people buying goods and services online will also increase. This will also be promoted by various ecommerce platforms that are helping to bridge the gap between online and offline shopping.

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