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Fear of online fraud dims Kenya's use of digital ecosystem — study

By Moses Omusolo | August 11th 2021
Uptake of e-commerce and other advanced digital services such as e-commerce lag. [Courtesy]

Nearly all Kenyans have a mobile phone and make regular use of mobile money services - cementing the country’s position as a regional leader in access to digital services, a new survey says.

Despite the heavy mobile penetration, Kenyans mostly make basic use of their phones on sending and receiving money, buying airtime and data bundles and communicating.

This has left adoption of advanced digital services such as e-commerce, digital payments, digital education and content creation to lag.

“Our survey data corroborate and update what is already established: Kenya is a continental leader in internet penetration (65 per cent of Kenyans over 15 years have access to the internet), mobile phone penetration (98 per cent of Kenyans older than 15 years own a SIM card), and 94 per cent of Kenyans older than 15 years use mobile money,” said the report by advisory firms Dalberg and Omidyar Network.

“Our survey finds that just 13 per cent of Kenyans have used e-commerce platforms to buy or sell products and services.”

The study said that while 44 per cent of self-employed people use digital services to support their businesses, 86 per cent of this group use these services to communicate with customers and vendors.

As few as 23 per cent of the business owners, according to the report, use intermediate digital services for business, and only 15 per cent use advanced digital services for business - including records and track stock.

“The next few years offer an opportunity to build on Kenya’s digital progress and to embrace lessons from surveys like this to advance the nation’s commitment to ensuring every citizen, enterprise and organisation are participating in the digital economy,” said Robert Karanja, director at Omidyar Network.

The report attributes the low uptake of e-commerce and other advanced digital services to a lack of a national addressing system, fear of online fraud and lack of hands-on support.

“Many Kenyans are concerned about digital fraud and 30 per cent report they have experienced it. Seventy-one per cent of small business owners and self-employed people say concerns about digital fraud limit their usage of digital services,” said the report.

The report lauded Huduma Centres and the e-citizen platform for enabling Kenyans to access services such as the application of passports and driving licences.

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