Kenya is among developing economies with rich local content online second only to Morocco in Africa, a new report shows.
“Morocco puts in the strongest performance among developing countries, followed by Kenya, Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines,” says the report released last Friday.
Its focus is four categories, namely universal access, freedom and openness, relevant content and empowerment with regard to web use, to encourage increased Internet uptake by people for development. The index was launched last year.
Kenyan officials have welcomed the report saying it was manifest of Kenya’s massive investment in technology, including the laying of undersea fibre optic cables and broadband expansion that has boosted Internet uptake.
John Matogo, the manager at iBizAfrica, an incubation centre at the Strathmore Business School, said the report stamps Kenya’s authority as an ICT hub in the region. He said more Kenyans are now able to access local content with the widening scope of data by local bloggers and entertainment sites.
“However, there is need to cut cost of Internet access to further boost an online culture,” Mr Matogo added.
Former Communication permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo noted that use of local content among Kenyans is still low compared to other data. This, he said, is especially true on the entertainment scene where foreign movies and music make the lion’s share.
The findings come as the government is preparing for a major roll-out of laptops for Standard One pupils beginning next year, tapping into local content for curriculum development.
In 2011, the previous government launched the Kenya Open Data, a platform that has made available information on the State to the public through a single online portal.
In so doing, Kenya became the second nation on the continent after Morocco to adopt an open government data portal for information sharing to boost governance.
The Web Index is the brainchild of Tim Bernes-Lee, the inventor of the Web. Mr Bernes-Lee has cited factors such as lack of commitment by government officials to have weighed down underperforming nations in developing quality online content.
“[There is] a lack of understanding or focus on the Web as a tool for empowering people, and a corresponding failure to give priority to increasing the knowledge, voice and participation of excluded groups such as women, low paid workers and farmers,” the report notes.
It identifies outdated approaches to communication as yet another challenge that continually condemns nations to information that is out of touch with modern practices.
The report recommends that governments consider supporting ICT entrepreneurs from the private sector with a view to ensuring innovation of solution-based products.
“Governments should consider shifting emphasis towards supporting them (innovators) to be more effective information intermediaries, instead of concentrating resources on ministerial and agency websites that too often become graveyards for outdated and little used content,” the report advises.
In addition, providing direct funding, subsidies and incentives is a necessary step to enable States to develop content and services that can fill public information needs.
The survey, which was conducted mid this year, noted that government use of the mobile platform is lowest in Africa, with only seven per cent of governments using mobile channels as part of their e-government strategies.
Poor education remains the biggest challenge to web use by many, the report adds, with one in five women being illiterate globally and two in every five children dropping out before joining secondary school.
“A priority for many countries to improve their Web index score must be to improve their basic education system and teacher training,” the report says. “A next step would be to incorporate digital and data literacy into teacher training.”
Sweden and Norway are the world’s two top performing countries overall in this year’s Web index, as almost 95 per cent of people in these countries are online.
Findings point towards low Internet penetration in Africa compared to the rest of the world, with fewer than one in five people using the Net in Africa.
The report noted that between 50 per cent and 70 per cent of Africans cite high costs as a deterrent to Internet usage.
“The mobile revolution notwithstanding, the most powerful information technology — the Internet — is still out of reach for three in five of the world’s people, and for over four in five Africans.”
According to the Web Index, only Morocco has achieved its target level of 50 per cent Internet use among developing nations.
Data from the Communications Commission of Kenya shows that Internet subscribers increased by 28.4 per cent in the three months leading to June 30 this year to reach 12.4 million up from 9.6 million the previous quarter. This was spurred by an increase in the number of Net-enabled phone holders.
During the same period, the number of broadband subscriptions grew by 36.9 per cent to reach 1.39 million.