A little over a decade ago, “the internet” was largely unheard of in most parts of Kenya. In Nairobi and other major cities, you had to go to a cyber café to send an email. It was a slow, tedious process but we were all excited about not having to use “snail mail.”

Today, Nairobi is connected; From Zuku to Faiba and of course the indomitable telecommunications companies – Safaricom, Airtel, Orange, ISP providers are rushing to connect our homes to the world. While these exciting broadband packages are cheaper than when we first got connected, they are nowhere near where they should be.

NEW WAYS TO CONNECT

The most popular use of the internet is social media, the latest way for individuals and corporates to communicate. It’s so popular, even Presidents use it! A few weeks back, twitter was host to ‘a 140 character feud’ between the President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and his former social media account manager. She was told off online for alleging on his twitter account that he had been hacked. It was very entertaining to thousands of followers, tuned in to see how a sitting head of State cleans house. This of course is something which we would never have been privy to in Africa!

But why is Kenya leading in internet access within sub-Saharan Africa, second only to Rwanda? The answer is the penetration of smartphones. The tweef between President Museveni and his former social media manager was followed by many Kenyans accessing the internet via their smartphones. What a change from the days when cyber cafes would charge 3KES per minute for access to a mostly static web!

It is increasingly clear that the greatest use of the internet for our economy i.e. business and commerce has only begun. Imagine what the landscape of the country will look like when we have youth “phone-prenuers” who simply run their business from home or a coworking space with their website as the shop front! The delivery will most likely take place face to face using an OLX style model of customer-client relationship. Of course use of the internet to simply surf and watch YouTube video clips will always remain a favourite past time – just not on company time for any employers reading this!

I believe that the true force of the internet for our country lies in shaping the destiny of millions of so called ‘jobless youth’ who form 50% of the population. While the principles of business and money making remain fairly traditional (product or service; demand and supply), the technology to fuel this model exponentially increases the potential of what can be done.

BENEFITS OF THE NET FOR YOUTH

What role could corporates play in using the internet driving the direction of the country and improving the opportunities for the youth?

1) Contribute to policies and initiatives which decrease usage and access costs.
2) Encourage individual and corporate brand partnerships. This could be done by partnering with ambitious Kenyans who have demonstrated talent and drive. Such partnerships are better than hand-outs and provide exposure.
3) Virtual internship roles. These would offer talented youth low risk opportunities to kick-start their own entrepreneurial dreams by virtually interning at your firm.

ABOUT our guest blogger

@KenTechPrenuer is a Kenyan blogger, Software Engineer who believes that you should try to smile as much as you can! You can find more of his work here: http://distantspectator.wordpress.com