Youth and IT in East Africa

Youth, IT, East Africa, handsets, costs, college, gmail, facebook, KenyaPhone ownership by the youth (13-24 years) has also seen an an increased expenditure on mobile airtime with the research findings showing that collectively, East African youth spend $70mn monthly on airtimeWhat do the youth in Africa use their phones for?


Over half the youths in East Africa have active SIM cards, with 94 per cent of these owning handsets, a new survey by the Kenyan-based Consumer Insight, a local research firm shows.

Besides voice and text, their phones are always popularly used for radio, music and the internet.

Phone ownership by the youth (13-24 years) has also seen an an increased expenditure on mobile airtime with the research findings showing that collectively, East African youth spend $70mn monthly on airtime.

Kenyan youth spend the most at $38mn followed by Uganda at $20mn and Tanzania youths use $12mn.

The youth form the bulk of the Kenyan population, with the latest census showing that those aged below 24 years in excess of 20mn - more than half of the Kenyan population.

Conservative estimates put Tanzanians aged between 15 and 35 years at around 40 per cent of the population, with the youth sector now comprising about 17mn people, and a large number of them are mobile subscribers.


Facebook & Gmail

However, institutions such as schools across the region have banned use of mobile phones by students limiting their usage mostly to over the holidays.

According to the research, 35 per cent of the target group in the entire region have access to internet with Kenya leading the pack at 49 per cent with internet access, Tanzania at 30 percent and Uganda at 26 percent.

Of these, 74 per cent in Kenya are on an online social network, Uganda has 59 percent and Tanzania lags behind at 34 per cent.

Of these surveyed, 90 per cent are in Facebook with 22 per cent on Gmail.


Handset costs

“ It is far easier and cheaper to reach my friend on facebook that through calling. Discreet even in the house and I am abe to chat with schoolmates during the school holidays”, says Dan Otieno, a Nairobi high school attending youth.

With this huge marketing potential mobile phone companies have been enticing the youth with offers for cheaper phones and calling rates across the region.

Cost of the phone is no longer barrier considering that some are costing as little as $12.


Handset cost

"Though the cost of handset is still a barrier, it is much less so since only two out of 10 youngsters sampled cited it as a barrier. Cost of airtime is no longer a barrier," said Consumer Insight managing director Ndirangu wa Maina.

In a recent media interview, Mr. Husni Seif, an official with Tanzanian mobile provider Tigo observed that the youth may be spending more than the study found out.

Beyond the social networks and email, college attending youths in the region have found the internet a useful tool in conducting research. From term papers and other assignments, the internet has become an alternative to the tedious long hours spent in the library.


Furthering education

“We no longer have to take long hours in the college library. Instant use of search machines such as google gives quick answers to almost any challenging concept, idea or theory. Internet enabled phones are a great asset in the university halls”, observes Emma Kairu, an education undergraduate at Egerton University in Kenya.

Globally, the World Bank has noted that connectivity—whether the Internet or mobile phones—is increasingly bringing market information, financial services, health services—to remote areas, and is helping to change people’s lives in unprecedented ways.

“The mobile platform is emerging as the single most powerful way to extend economic opportunities and key services to millions of people,” says Christine Zhen-Wei Qiang, World Bank economist and editor of a new Bank Group report on information technology and development, posted on the Bank’s website.

With 10 percent increase in high speed Internet connections, economic growth increases by 1.3 percent, the Banks observes. The youth comprising the majority in East Africa are bound to benefit with increased internet and phone connectivity.


by Mwangi Mumero

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