The technology scene in Kenya has grown rapidly over the 1st half of the decade. Behind this steady growth lies the emergence of tech hubs, government support and of course the emergence of different technologies.
The emergence of tech hubs and labs and institutions like mlab East Africa, iHub, Nailab, Emobilis, Growth Hub amongst many others have proved to be great initiatives in terms of accelerating growth in the ICT sector. They do this through accelerator programs, Ideation programs, Hackathons, Incubation , Entrepreneurial/ Business coaching, meetups amongst others. The education sector has also followed suite whereby institutions like Strathmore University, Nairobi University and Kenyatta University have also set up hubs within their campuses to enhance the same. In Strathmore we find the ilab while in Nairobi University we find the C4D lab. Kenyatta university in particular recently introduced the Digital learning program where students are given tablets enabling them to study anywhere anytime.
The government through the ICT Board has also made major strides in pushing the ICT sector. In the recent years they have introduced the Digital services, Projects and initiatives, research documents that have shaped the technology landscape in Kenya. Some of the most notable ones are National Optic Fibre Broadband Infrastructure (NOFBI), Kenya Open Data Initiative (KODI), County Connectivity Project (CCP), Digital Villages- Pasha, Tandaa Grants, Huduma Centres Research Report, Communication Authority of Kenya ICT Reports and the Vision 2030 Konza Technology Park. They have also had partnerships with major industry players like IBM Research lab, KITOs, NASSCOM, Oracle, SAP and Huawei.
However, all this growth has been made possible by the emergence of different technology inventions that have been leveraged by developers to create different platforms and softwares that have made this possible. It is with this in mind that the m:lab East Africa this year came up with the TechTrend initiative.
TechTrend is an m:lab East Africa monthly initiative that focuses on technology trends in the mobile developer world and mentoring sessions for upcoming mobile developers by incubated startups or established tech companies.
So here goes the list of my top 10 most disruptive technologies that have shaped the Kenyan tech scene 1st half of the 2010 – 2020 decade. My rating is biased on the impact the technology has had on the Kenyan people. One major aspect to note is the tendency of all technologies to focus towards mobile capabilities.
#10 Content Management Systems
The most common of them that I have come across include Joomla, WordPress, Drupal, SilverStripe or MODX. Before 2011 the most commonly used platform was Joomla; It has being overtaken by WordPress which is now perhaps the leading platform because of its blogging capabilities. The other uses of these CMS are Websites, shopping carts, discussion forums etc. Thousands of blogs exists in Kenya, from personal blogs, Corporate blogs and major News sites. Alot of major websites and shopping sites are also powered by these CMSs
#9 Application Frameworks
Hundreds of Application frameworks exist in the market today.These are software applications that are designed to support the development of systems. They have greatly reduced the amount of time needed to create big applications because they provide libraries for database access, templating frameworks and session management, and they often promote code reuse.
The development of HTML5 has brought major capabilities in developing Hybrid applications that can be used for both the laptop and mobile phone. Hybrid Frameworks like the Intel App Framework, Phonegap and the Rhomobile Suite enable HTML5 apps to be converted to different platform apps like Android, Windows or iPhone Apps.
Front end web developers and back end web developers have Codeigniter, Laravel, Ruby on Rails, Bootstrap just to mention a few that they use for their different developments. Thousands of Corporations, Startups, Companies have their ICT technicians develop on top of these frameworks.
#8 USSD/SMS Technology
The market for smartphone in Kenya is steadily growing. Keen to note though is the use of USSD and SMS and how startups and companies have been able to tap its use. The Eneza Education for example uses this to impact lots of children lives in the education sector. Other companies leveraged on it via subscription services such as Love/Alerts SMS, betting, buying music etc. Banks also use it for mobile banking among other uses. Hundreds of Companies and Startups, have tapped into the capabilities of this technology and its impact influences many in the Kenyan Society.
#7 Smart Phone
Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter and many other hundreds of apps are as a result of the proliferation of smart phones. The capabilities of smartphones is transcendent considering the different innovations being inputted into the phones with every new upgrade. The IoT is also something to watch for in the next few years as we see our phones become connected to our household items as well as gears like smart watches.
#6 Payment Gateways
A few years back we only knew of Paypal, we now enjoy PesaPal, Jambonet and iPay amongst others which incorporate Kenyan modes of payment. This has led to the rise of local ways of purchasing through our phones and websites using our local means of cash exchange.
#5 NFC Technology
I call it ‘tapping’ technology. Its basically the use of an NFC enabled card with a phone or other mobile device to enable transfer of cash. The Public transport in Kenya rolled the Cashless system however its yet to be adopted fully in all PSV vehicles. Already, players like Beba Pay, My1963 Card, Abiria Card have formed partnerships with major banks KCB and telcos like Safaricom. We will see what becomes of it the next few months as we get into the second half of the decade. The technology is also used for loyalties, school going children and as access cards. This year also saw the first Kenyan startup to head to the Silicon Valley, Card Planet.
#4 Optical Fibre Technology
In the recent years the fibre optic in cable was laid down in Kenya and it has since increased the internet speeds to great levels. The internet providers such as Jamii Telcom and Zuku have come up with interesting packages and ways to sell their bandwidth to the Kenyans. Its impact affects millions of Kenyans and thats why it features at no. 4 of the disruptive technologies in Kenya list.
#3 3G Technology
With the growing number of smartphones that have 3G capabilities, the Telcos are battling day and night to create packages for mobile data. The major telcos have enabled 3G technologies in major cities in Kenya. Recently, Safaricom introduced 4G capability via their network and in the next half of the decade we will see the other telcos follow suit as well as emergence of other innovations via the same.
#2 Cloud Computing
In 2009 it was generally thought of as a fad, it has grown to become one of the biggest technological strides in our generation. It involves delivering hosted services over the Internet via services like Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). The cost of servers, their sizes and computational power is now not a headache to various tech companies who now simply just have to pay for the different services and gave it hosted over the cloud. Windows Azure and Amazon web services, are greatly used by many developers especially to integrate web and mobile services as well as create cross platform networks with different capabilities. In Kenya startups like Kili, Kenyan Cloud and corporates like Safaricom have leveraged on the opportunity with their Cloud computing service. Softlayer recently partnered with mlab East Africa to provide the services to startups.
#1 Mobile Money
Kenya is undoubtedly the most innovative mobile money market in the world. Mobile money transfer service providers moved over $20 billion and over 700 million transactions last year. Its impact is widespread throughout Kenya. Mobile money agents, integrations with banks, microfinance institutions, companies, megastores and many other startups have build other systems on top of the mobile money. Mobile money technology has had the most impact on the Kenyan economy and continues to improve peoples lives on a daily basis. It proudly features as the #1 most influential technology for the 1st half of the 2010 – 2020 decade.
Technologies to watch for in the next half of the decade: