With so many people in Kenya either at home or working from home due to COVID-19, daily habits and lifestyles are being altered. One thing that would be expected is more people being online for entertainment and work, and leading ISPs in the country have confirmed the same.

Safaricom announced that it has experienced a 40% surge in Internet usage. There has also been a 70% increase in SMS usage!

This is a good reflection of how Kenyans are adjusting to social distancing measures as people work from home, or simply spend time at home. Safaricom happens to be one of the largest Internet Service Providers in Kenya, both through mobile data and fixed home Internet. It also controls the biggest market share in both the mobile money and mobile voice market in Kenya.

What are Kenyans doing online?

For people who are wired for outdoors and carry out all their life outdoors, there is little solace in staying indoors.

The majority of people are turning to online entertainment. Others have to work from home, and these are majorly the jobs that are mostly done on a computer, usually requiring an internet connection or with occasional cloud meetings.

This is why entertainment and social connection are the major factors driving data usage. According to Safaricom, Netflix has seen a 400% increase in usage, where users have streamed 20,000 movies at the same time. Facebook is also a major destination, with a peak of 100,000 users being live on Facebook.

Many urban churches are also using YouTube and Facebook to reach out to their members. This involves running their services live on these platforms and mobilizing their members to follow online. This could also explain why we have had many being on Facebook live.

My personal anecdote

I have found myself keeping up with social activities online even more. Meetings that would have been done physically have either been canceled or done online. Some of the meetings that had failed to take place before COVID-19 due to physical limitations have run out of excuses, and I have done some of them online.

A religious meeting that I attend every week is now happening online, and with the sporting world registering near-zero activities, I have found myself streaming more movies in the last thirty days than I had done previously.

This seems like the new normal for many urban residents in Kenya.

The Internet connection problem

While more activities are happening online, the main throttle to staying online is the cost. The cost of mobile Internet is quite high in Kenya, and fast, reliable internet is a problem in rural areas. Various people are trying to solve this problem.

However, for the people still on a metered connection, there is a feeling of slavery as one has to choose between slow internet that is affordable or fast internet that costs too much.

As we have said before, if there is a time when the Internet needs to be more available like water and electricity, it’s now.

Telkom Kenya announced a partnership with Google Loon that would see Loon launch balloons in Kenyan airspace, which will help reach more people in rural areas with 4G internet. This is a great move, although for it to be feasible, the cost of an Internet connection should come down.

Safaricom has doubled the speeds for home fiber connections to allow users to stream more at the same cost. In addition, they are offering some free internet to access several educational platforms to allow more students to access them.

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