Internet usage in Kenya during covid-19 has drastically grown since the pandemic hit us. Kenya recorded the first case of corona-virus infection on 12th March. Since then, the numbers have continued to grow with a total of 103 infections and three fatalities as at 30th March. In order to curb spread of the disease, the government instituted a number of measures including;
- border closure,
- mandatory 14 days self-isolation for returning travelers.
- The government has announced a stay at home campaign,
- ordered curfews
- and banned public gatherings of more than 10 individuals.
The internet and related technologies have proven to be essential tools in this period for implementation of the measures and citizens’ exercising economic, social and political rights. Self-isolation is enforced through monitoring of movements via mobile phone. Further, citizens’ access to information related to the pandemic from health authorities is through Internet platforms. Meanwhile, business and education institutions have adopted the internet to continue operations.
There have been several positive and supportive developments through initiatives from technology service providers. Huawei has provided connectivity bandwidth to students from universities taking some of their sponsored short courses diploma levels. Mobile network operations have also doubled the speed of their mobile internet bundles for subscribers. However, this did not translate directly to home broadband internet subscribers. At KEMNET we are home broadband service providers in Kenya, currently based in Athi River. We are consistently expanding to other parts of the country as well. We also embrace wireless internet provision along Mombasa road, Mlolongo and Syokimau.
Internet usage in Kenya during covid-19 stand at 39.6 million, of which 22 million are broadband subscriptions currently.
Nonetheless, the current COVID-19 pandemic continues to expose inequalities of internet access in the country. With the closure of universities and other learning institutions, many have endeavored to continue their semesters through online delivery. Due to uneven network distribution in the country, students who had gone back to their rural homes expressed the frustrations of accessing the online learning platforms.
During the International Women’s day chat on remote working experiences for women, participants expressed the difficulties of working from home. This included frequent power outages and Internet downtime due to increased bandwidth demand, interrupted work from time to time. This is an indicator of the fact that most Kenyans access the Internet from their workplaces and that home broadband is still a luxury for many.
The implications of some enabling tech applications as solutions to the current situation also come with privacy costs. Zoom has been the most downloaded mobile application in the past two weeks. House Party App has also been most popular last week for social connections that have replaced physical casual meetings. However, the privacy features of these applications are a concern for digital rights.
Government efforts to manage the health crisis have also had serious implications on freedom of expression. The Computer Misuse and Cyber-crime Act 2016 is being used to arrest persons who spread controversial information on the corona virus.
Meanwhile, innovators have also worked to provide technical solutions to the pandemic. For instance,a tracing application was launched to track travelers’ commuter paths. It requires commuters to share their contacts with the public transport service providers. Although, it is not clear what privacy safeguards are in place, which emphasizes the need for the developer’s community to be sensitized to apply the principle of privacy by design.
Overall, there is a need to balance the use of technology with human rights in response to the pandemic. As countries continue putting measures in place to contain the virus, they should also consider the rights and dignity of their citizens. Otherwise, we might risk losing the rights and freedoms we had steadily gained over many years. To get our home fiber services, wireless and business internet packages, click here and friendly costs.