Kenya Internet Report Charts Increases in Access, E-Commerce and Arrests of Bloggers

Hackathon at iHub, a technology incubator in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo by Erik Hersman via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Hackathon at iHub, a technology incubator in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo by Erik Hersman via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) is a community organization that represents a group of local online-content creators and seeks to empower innovation in this field and improve the quality of content created on the Web. On Nov. 28, BAKE released its State of the Internet in Kenya 2016.

The report, which is available to download, was produced as part of BAKE’s iFreedoms Kenya program, which promotes human rights and media rights online through documentation, public interest litigation, policy intervention, advocacy, and training.

The report addresses Internet-related issues that took place in Kenya over the past year. Report highlights:

Internet penetration on the rise

Kenya's growing population of Internet users has had significant effects on the country's media and entertainment industry. According to the national Communications Authority's latest quarterly Sector Statistics Report, the data-Internet market reached 26.8 million customers, while the estimated number of Internet users grew to 37.7 million users.

Kenya’s mobile penetration has increased from 89.2 percent to 90 percent, while the percentage of people who use a smartphone to access the Internet in Kenya has increased from 27 percent in 2014 to 44 percent in 2016.

The report notes that there are 6.1 million Kenyans on Facebook and 2.2 million Kenyans who use Twitter at least once a month — with 1 million of these people checking Twitter every day.  WhatsApp has 10 million users, Instagram has 3 million users, and 1.5 million Kenyans use LinkedIn.

Blogs are increasingly popular – for readers and writers alike

Blogging is a growing profession in Kenya, as evidenced by the growth in niche-area blogs and employment in the sector. Lifestyle, business, and creative writing blogs recorded growth during the period, while fewer people are now reading political and entertainment blogs.

The report tracked the 36 most active blogs within the BAKE server, as well as stats from individual blogs, between October 2015 and October 2016. Analysis of the data shows that Kenya's blogging scene has grown enormously in terms of monthly readership.

Monthly visits increased by 46 percent, from 12.4 million to 18.1 million.

The lifestyle category has seen the highest growth, recording 69 percent, followed by business blogs, with 46 percent and creative writing at 36 percent. The readership of political blogs decreased by 47 percent, however, followed by entertainment, at a 37-percent drop.

The industry has also grown to offer legitimate career paths employing full-time writers. Platforms like HapaKenya, Techweez, Tuko, Ghafla! and Soko Directory have full-time staff on their payroll.

The cover of State of the Internet in Kenya 2016.

The cover of State of the Internet in Kenya 2016.

Free Expression: 60 arrests of bloggers and journalists

According to the report, bloggers and journalists in Kenya were arrested at least 60 times in the past year. Most of these individuals were arrested on a Friday and held until the next Monday, in efforts by the police to intimidate people against self-expression.

The report also documents human-rights issues facing groups such as LGBTIQ people in Kenya. Cyber bullying and harassment are common threats to LGBTIQ Kenyans. LGBTIQ persons, unlike other cases of online bullying or shaming, do not have legal recourse, the report concludes, because the institutions do not recognize their rights as protected human rights.

As cost of access goes down, the digital economy grows

The Kenya’s digital economy is growing and transforming different sectors of the economy, including agriculture, financial services, health, and education. Internet access costs are now dramatically cheaper, since the arrival of submarine fibre optic cables in 2007.

An example of the growth of Kenya's digital economy is the acquisition of gossip blog Ghafla! by Ringier, a Switzerland-based media group with an integrated and diversified value creation chain.

BAKE's report was produced with support from organisations including Internews Network, HIVOS, and Article 19.

Read the full report by the Bloggers Association of Kenya here.

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