Kenya's digital journey still slow despite bossing E.Africa

Digital firm Qhala highlights cybersecurity, skills gap and uneven distribution as main challenges to the progress

In Summary
  • The index ranked Kenya position one with a 26.75 score, followed by Rwanda and Uganda in second and third position, respectively.
  • The ranking was justified to its widespread mobile money system, government investments in infrastructure and initiatives focused on digital literacy.

Access to digital tools and services remains expensive for many Kenyans as data costs, smartphone prices, and internet subscriptions continue to strain household budgets, limiting inclusivity and participation.

This is according to a report by a digital transformation and innovation management firm Qhala, which says the concern is just one among other major challenges dragging the country’s progress towards its digitization goals.

Dubbed the ‘2023 Eastern Africa youth digital readiness index’, the report also highlights cybersecurity as a further constraint to the country’s progress.

Data by the Communication Authority of Kenya (CA), shows Kenya witnessed increased cyber threats in the three months to December 2023, with more than 1.2 billion cases recorded.

It was a 943 per cent jump from the 123 million threats detected in the previous quarter.

“Skills gap is also a pain to the country. While Kenya invests in digital skills development, the demand for skilled IT professionals often outpaces the supply. The existing skills gap hampers innovation, limits the uptake of advanced technologies, and hinders the full potential digital economy,” the report reads.

Nevertheless, it highlights the uneven distribution of digital advancements as a further challenge.

“Kenya's digital boom primarily benefits urban areas, leaving rural communities lagging. Limited internet access, lack of affordable devices and lower digital literacy still hinder rural populations from reaping the benefits of digital solutions.”

This is despite the country’s progress in the digitization journey, with the report ranking it top in Eastern Africa in terms of digital readiness.

The index ranked Kenya position one with a 26.75 score, followed by Rwanda and Uganda in second and third position, respectively.

Ethiopia and Tanzania ranked came in fourth and fifth as Sudan, DRC and Somalia occupied the sixth, seventh and eighth positions, respectively.

Kenya’s position in the ranking was justified by its widespread mobile money system, government investments in infrastructure, and initiatives focused on digital literacy.

The study also indicates that several countries in the region saw an increase in mobile money adoption, fostering financial inclusion.

The index analyses factors such as digital skills, government support, and online safety with a mandate to identify areas for improvement and promote collaboration across the region to bridge the digital divide and empower young people.

According to Shikoh Gitau, the founder and CEO of Qhala, the 2023 Eastern Africa Youth Digital Readiness Index serves as a valuable tool for policymakers, businesses, civil society and educational institutions.

“It provides nuanced insights into the digital landscape of Eastern African countries offering a roadmap for strategic interventions to foster digital readiness and innovation,” Gitau said.

The study also encourages knowledge sharing and joint efforts to maximize impact through regional collaboration.”

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