Kenya: Nation's Digital Consumers Have Greatly Evolved

Technology & Convergence

The school holidays were a busy time, the kids would find their way into wardrobes and with creativity weave several clothe hangers into sports cars of every make. My friend made a Range Rover that looked so much like the real thing that the ooh and ahs never stopped. While the Safari rally was a three day event, ours lasted the holiday month. In between the rallies we found time to make paper balls with which we played hours of football or rounders. That was the fare in every estate in urban Kenya.

Fast track 2011. The average 10 year old in middle income Kenya has a pocket gadget they carry with them like a pet dog. This device will entertain them in breaks from watching TV or playing a game on the computer. Where this device is not a game console, it comes in the form of a phone. This phone is accessed during the holidays and works to connect them with friends from schools afar.

Several things have changed betwen the child of our generation and the child of today. Firstly, most of us went to schools within our neighborhoods. High school was often the first distant adventure away from home. The need to over rely on telecoms to connect with friends was thus non-existent. The school currculum also worked differently. Kids could go to school and find time for play. Holidays were real breaks for kids and few did any schooling during these breaks. If a kid spends most of their day in school, it may be dark when they get back home.

With darkness most forms of recreation will ellude this child, leaving them with a few nocturnal options for unwinding. Thus the television and the computer game have become an important part of recreation for an entire generation. The die on digital entertainment and engagement has been cast. What was an option for one generation is an absolute neccessity for another. A generation that will be in their 20s soon was born in Kenya with 100 per cent connectivity on mobile.

This generation has never known communication outage. The most they go without a phone is the time between battery charges. To understand the differences between these two generations think about how dating was done by the generation in their 40s. There were less than 100,000 phones lines between 25 million or so people. Thus the public telephone was the main means of telecommunication for most. A date would be set several weekends away and the appointment kept without reminder.

These events were planned over a long time. Today, the time between making the call and the date can be hours or minutes. Even then the venue can change several times as teens fetch each other via their phones. The import of this ? The current generation is a NOW generation. Information is passed on continiously and life happens at the speed of an sms. The difference betwen the two generations could literally be as huge as that between a horse and a camel. We have evolved.