Category: General Blog Posts

Calling all Digital Creatives: Visual Arts and the Culture of Sharing.

With the rise in popularity of various digital platforms, the ease of sharing content online has improved tremendously. Kenya’s internet penetration, fast approaching the 30% threshold, has seen platforms such as Facebook, Whatsapp and Youtube, become the most popular in the country. This rise in patronage of digital platforms in Kenya, has availed opportunities for ‘online jobs’ for digital artists, online community managers and creators, especially in the wake of Kenya’s unemployment crisis.

Beyond promoting entrepreneurship, governments have renewed their focus on the digital economy, as an alternative solution to unemployment with initiatives such as Ajira, spearheaded by the government of Kenya, with the tagline that online work is work. Globally, careers such as Social Media Influencer, Animator, Graphic Designer, Digital Artist, VLogger etc have become more commonplace, when we compare the current labour landscape to merely five years ago. Closer home, researchshows that the total size of the online Kenyan gig economy, as at 2019 is $109 million and employing a total of 36,573 gig workers.

Social media has presented the opportunity for the ‘going viral’ phenomenon, where content can be shared instantly across multiple online platforms and within a matter of seconds this content has been viewed across existing geographical, cultural and language demarcations. However, as the ease of sharing content across digital platforms improves, concerns around content ownership and sharing permissions increase.

The questions arising from this are:

  1. How then are digital content creators protected from 3rd parties replicating and presenting this content as their own?
  2. What are the avenues available to protect and improve monetisation of their creations?
  3. What are the opportunities available for creators to widely share their content with the aim of educating, informing and entertaining wider audiences without the fear of exploitation?

Is the Kenyan landscape aware of the concerns of digital content creators and keen on preserving their intellectual property in order to foster a more informed culture of sharing?

To answer these and more questions, please join us on 18th October 2019 at the iHub for a conversation centring the Visual Arts and the Culture of Sharing in Kenya from 3pm to 5pm.

To RSVP please follow this link to our eventbrite to ensure you don’t miss a spot! Strictly no tickets will be available at the door.

If you have any questions please reach out to us on research@ihub.co.ke

#InternetPizzaFriday Roundup – What’s privacy got to do with it?

In the past couple of months we’ve probably talked about data privacy and data protection as a nation, more than ever in the past. What with the huduma namba and the concerns surrounding it and further with the recent huduma bill, that goes against several aspects of human rights; Kenyans are now taking a more active role in the discourse around their data privacy.

Our third edition of #InternetPizzaFriday hosted by iHub Research took a deep dive into the realm of privacy for individuals as well as in relation to customers; with regards to entrepreneurs who handle client or customer data, in order to effectively supply goods or services. 

This Pizza Friday we were also honoured to host TripleOKLaw who gave us an overview of data protection laws, where the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) took a centre stage especially due to the fact that Kenya is still yet to implement a Data Protection Law. This is in addition to the Constitution that highlights key general provisions of the right to privacy in Article 31 and the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act, despite having a majority of its sections suspended.

Find here the link to TripleOKLaw’s presentation

Find here the link to Kenya’s draft Data Protection Law

Find here the link to iHub Research’s presentation

In case you have any questions or would like to collaborate with iHub Research on a Pizza Friday please write to us at research@ihub.co.ke

Why We Should All Be Digital Rights Advocates – Entrepreneurs Edition

Since 2014 iHub Research has been supporting the uptake of digital tools and platforms for purposes of community organising and accessing opportunities and resources online by citizens around Kenya. Through our research it has been evident that there exists not only a gap, but a widening gap as countries become more digitally reliant. Kenya’s internet penetration currently stands just above the 20% threshold according to a recent report by Research ICT Africa. This means almost 80% of Kenyans do not benefit from being online. In our evolving research we have had the opportunity to work closely with counties, namely: Nakuru, Kisumu, Uasin Gishu and Mombasa. Collaborating with youth groups and community based organisations in these counties has exposed us to the actual lived reality, rather than the utopian narrative that is commonly propagated.

Kenyans are still struggling to connect to the internet due to three main reasons: digital literacy, cost of access and devices as well as infrastructural challenges. During this phase of our digital literacy program with support from SIDA, iHub has supported the establishment of communities of practice in Uasin Gishu, Kisumu and Mombasa county. This was aimed at supporting a larger percentage of Kenyans in these regions use ICTs for community organising and for personal benefits ranging from employment, education and socialising.

Kenyans are still struggling to get online, so what’s next? This edition of #InternetPizzaFriday focused on the role of entrepreneurs in bridging this widening digital gap; do entrepreneurs have a responsibility? Several businesses today rely on digital platforms in order to offer their products or services to their customers, the same platforms that Kenyans are struggling to access affordably, conveniently or even at all.

How can entrepreneurs get involved in bridging the widening digital gap?

It goes without saying that as more Kenyans get online, the bigger the market share digital businesses, will potentially be able to access for their products or services.

The solution is then simple, tech entrepreneurs need to be actively involved in decreasing barriers to access such as cost, technology, devices, complexity of platforms.

Below are a number of practical ways that tech entrepreneurs can be actively involved:

Mobile friendly and simpler platforms

Majority of Kenyans access the internet via mobile which provides a different quality of access as compared to access via personal computer; it’s thus important to note that ‘not all access is equal’. By developing platforms, products and services that can be accessed via mobile and sites that do not require large amounts of data to access, tech entrepreneurs can effectively decrease barriers to access.

Policy Discussions

Often we may think contributing to policy discussions is something that should be left to civil society organisations and governments, however this is an inaccurate assumption. By participating in policy debates, tech entrepreneurs bring the expertise of understanding a customers experience in accessing their products and services which is vital in creating a ‘friendly’ digital environment for both entrepreneurs and customers. A multi-stakeholder approach is vital for any policy creation process, which eventually results in a thriving business environment. We need more tech entrepreneurs participating in the development of digital policy. These conversations often happen in unstructured forms e.g. on Social Media or in more structured forms such as on platforms like KICTANet.

Social Media

With over 12 millions Kenyans on Whatsapp and over 8 million on Facebook, how are tech enterprises transforming their customer service dynamics to take advantage of this reach? By meeting Kenyans on the platforms where they are already actively having conversations, without requiring them to send emails, access company websites and other options that are data heavy, tech enterprises effectively improve access to their product offerings.

Digital Literacy.

Years later, digital literacy is still a buzzword, basically because it is still a challenge that plagues a majority of the population. Across the world there exists different forms and techniques of digital literacy programs, but how should entrepreneurs approach digital literacy? Does your enterprise go beyond explaining the step by step process of accessing your offering? Do you have a Frequently Asked Question resource? Do you give your customers tips on how to access your platform in the cheapest and convenient way? Do you have a customer service team that hand holds your customers as they access your offering? These are just some questions you can consider as you develop your product offering.

The journey of bridging the widening digital gap needs all hands on deck, and entrepreneurs should not be left behind this call.

Find here the link to the #InternetPizzaFriday presentation.

Does Kenya’s Huduma Namba exemplify the elements of Good Identification?

Image Credits:HILTON OTENYO

In February 2019 the government of Kenya went ahead and announced the biometric registration of Kenyans to start in 15 counties. With the plan to register nearly 50million Kenyans aged six and above, a whopping 6 Billion has been set aside for this exercise.

Since this announcement it has been evident this Digital ID System, dubbed the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS), has been marred as a result of political interests. This began with the questionable procurement process, the strict timeline of conducting the process in 45days despite insufficient notice and the threat of no access to government services e.g. passport if one does not have a huduma namba as was mentioned by the Director of Immigration, Gordon Kihalangwa. Why does there exist such urgency for Kenyans to register for this ‘huduma namba’, lauded to improve security and ease of access to government services?

On April 1st a court ruling suspended the mandatory biometric registration of Kenyans, making it an optional exercise. However, reports from counties such as Mombasa and comments from government officials illustrate that the process is still mandatory where duress and even brute force is being used against Kenyans who do not comply and disparage the process on social media.

The questions that remain, is it possible to stop, recalibrate and restart this process in good faith? Can we determine why exactly we need digital identification in Kenya (if at all) and what this process should and deserves to look like?

At the Internet Society 2019 African Chapters Advocacy meeting in Addis Ababa at the African Union Commission, between the 9th and 10th of April, we got to discuss at length how exactly this process should look like, where everyone’s interests are considered and protected.

Public Participation

The Public Participation Bill of 2018 outlines that the responsible authority shall provide reasonable and meaningful opportunities for public participation. On the matter of digital ID’s in Kenya, public participation was not employed to get perspectives from citizens and other stakeholders in order to uphold a collaborative spirit. By seeking opinions and feedback from stakeholders the government could have addressed concerns and put in place solutions as well as receiving buy-in from all involved in the process, resulting in a more harmonised process.

In addition to a lack in public participation, information on the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS) still seems scanty hence casting doubt on the intentions of the government especially due to the sensitivity of the data being collected from Kenyans. Communication of the roll out strategy, objectives and potential impact based on evidence based research has not been done for the benefit of Kenyans. At risk of duplication of efforts, additionally how does the huduma namba supersede all the other numerous forms of identification that Kenyans have? This is information if delivered to Kenyans in a timely, clear and organised manner could change the negative perceptions of the lauded Huduma Namba.

Data Protection

Kenya still does not have a ratified Data Protection policy, so it would be folly for the government to conduct this biometric registration process, when no law exists to protect the sensitive data being collected from Kenyans; or even protect Kenyans from their data being misused to defend infractions against them such as surveillance, exclusion to services or even spaces.

The Omidyar Network identifies Good Identification as fundamental to inclusive growth and could unlock economic value equivalent to 3–6 percent of GDP on average by 2030, this is from a study conducted by Mckinsey Global.

What is Good Identification? According to the Omidyar Network, Good Identification is an empowering form of identity designed to be inclusive, private, secure, and controlled by the individual with the goal of helping people to participate more fully and fearlessly in society and the digital economy. Issuing Good Identification, backed by safeguards and principles, helps countries maximise the benefits and continental aspirations while minimising the risks for people, business, and government.

Here is a summary of principles on identification for sustainable development towards the digital age, that highlight the elements of inclusion, design and governance.

Currently the biometric registration still continues, albeit not being mandatory; Kenyans are being encouraged to voluntarily undergo the registration process. I believe it’s not too late to fix what has been broken, but we need to do an overhaul of the process, one that employs a multi-stakeholder dynamic, is transparent, ethical, secure and eventually valuable to Kenya’s economy.

Internet Rising Costs and What it means for Kenyans

If you live in Kenya you’ll have experienced the steady increase in internet costs as a result of increased excise duty in the recently amended Finance Bill 2018, which adopts a taxation of 15% on Internet Data Services. The result has been a progressive increase of internet package costs as exhibited in the screenshot above. 

Last month, Safaricom slashed the costs of buying internet bundles and has even began providing internet packages that offer subscribers free Whatsapp on select bundles even after the exhaustion of purchased bundles. They say this is in a bid to increase internet penetration amongst Kenyans, and comes after increasing M-Pesa tariffs on the basis of Finance Bill, 2018.

However, on Wednesday last week, Safaricom released a statement indicating that their headline price for voice calls and data would increase by 30 cents and SMS by 10 cents, as a result of the increased taxes passed in the Finance Act 2018.

What then will be the effect of this?

Some of the government’s flagship programmes namely Ajira Digital, The Digital Literacy Programme, Ease of Doing Business (eCitizen) and National Optic Fibre Backbone (NOFBI) all propose to improve access to digital spaces by Kenyans through customised online platforms, skills building and even infrastructure development. However, how will this increase in internet prices impact these interventions? The bottom line is that Kenyans must be able to afford internet services in order to benefit from these initiatives, and that already precarious reality has been threatened further.

This then raises the question of the methodology used by the government to review taxation levels, if at all it exists.

By increasing the costs attributed to getting online, assuming all other factors remain constant, Kenyans are only able to afford a fraction of the internet bundles they were once able to afford before the price increase, thus directly resulting in reduced internet access across the country. It is also important to consider that there will now be Kenyans who are completely locked out of even affording, the cheapest package subscription to internet bundles as a result of this price increase. Simply put, the resulting effect is a step back in the achievement of internet affordability for most Kenyans and even the complete locking out of others from the online space.

Bar reversing the taxes on internet services, what else can the government do?

Public Access Solutions

Introduce more working public access solutions for Kenyans to access the internet for free or at subsidised rates. This would involve making budgetary allocations to include internet access in public areas such as: libraries, schools, local centres, community centres, or public WiFi for use by community.

Policy Impact Studies

The government should adopt a multi-stakeholder model that enables them to form partnerships with organisations that advise them on the impact of various policy reform regimes. By taking into consideration recommendations derived from evidence based research studies the government can more sustainably review legislation to ensure maximum positive outcomes and minimal risk of negative outcomes on the economy and livelihoods.

The African Continent

According to Africans online, the internet has had a positive impact on many aspects of society, including education, the economy and personal relationships.

In the past couple of months some countries in the Africa region have undergone a different type of ‘internet taxation’, with Uganda taxing social media and Benin imposing a social media tax, that was fortunately later repealedCurrently, the internet has only penetrated 35% of Africa’s population, what does increased internet costs as a result of taxes do to this number? What is the eventual effect on aspects of economy, education and personal relationships?

How has this increase in internet costs affected you? What are you doing differently to adjust to this increase? We’d like to hear from you! E-mail us at research@ihub.co.ke or comment below.

Re-Imagining Social Norms on the Internet

(iHub Research’s session script from #FIFAfrica2018)

Since the mid-1990s, the Internet has had a revolutionary impact on culture, commerce, and technology, including the rise of near-instant communication by electronic mail, instant messaging, voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone calls, two-way interactive video calls, and the World Wide Web with its discussion forums, blogs, social networking, and online shopping sites.

With over 4 billion people on the internet, this number is only set to grow, especially with the age at which users are getting online steadily decreases.In Africa we have over 464 million users, with more male users than female.

Before we proceed let’s take a closer look at culture.

Culture is the totality of socially transmitted behaviour patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought.  The internet’s genesis may not be African, but the very essence of having Africans on the internet, makes the internet African. Our unique identity marker, being african through our African culture, naturally spills onto the internet, making it unique to our own African reality.

What is African culture? How do we define it for ourselves?

Africa, a continent of 54 countries and over 2,000 tribes and languages spoken boasts a diversity unique, the world over. Clearly, Africa is not a country. However, our culture brings us together. Central to African culture, is the existence of values. A value here being a point of view or conviction; to live by and even in some cases die for. If we look at African values, they fall in different categories:

  • Social Values
  • Moral Values
  • Religious Values
  • Political Values
  • Aesthetic Values
  • Economic Values

Culture is passed on from generation to generation. The acquisition of culture is a result of the socialisation process. Culture is not static, it is dynamic, over the years coming from external as well as internal influences and humankind progression, as development occurs. If we look at African culture today, it has definitely expanded and contracted to accommodate the people we are today.

Cultural norms should seek to include rather than exclude people from participating in it, and hence the reason why these norms evolve over the years as people do across generations.

The year is 2018, African culture today is an integral part, when it comes to online interactions. The conversations had by Africans online, are for the most part informed by our culture. This is exhibited by the languages used, discourse on religion, arguments regarding gender roles and even enjoyment of art amongst other topics.

In our research conducted on Kenyan Women’s experiences online, we found out that:

  1. Women of different profiles experience the internet differently
  2. Women of different profiles get harassed online
  3. Women of different profiles respond differently to harassment online
  4. Women of different profiles need different support to be safer online

Another very important hypothesis that we validated from our research was that, women are harassed just for being women and this unwarranted abuse, often takes an ugly sexual turn. Patriarchal systems (those controlled by men) are pervasive in our schools, in our workplaces, our churches and even in our homes. So it it only natural that the internet wasn’t left behind.

But how does this serve us? Apart from preventing women from participating online and reducing the potential of connecting the next billion?

Negative and harmful traditional practices that dehumanise people and portray them as unimproved and backward people without future, should as a matter of urgency be discarded since culture is an adaptive system together with values that play a central role in giving the society its uniqueness. (Idang 2015)

This is what patriarchal systems do, they dehumanise and portray women as less than.

Using the example of FGM, this was a part of african practises, it is a practise that has been abolished because it risked the lives of women and took away their autonomy over their own bodies. Our beliefs regarding Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) evolved, why can’t we re-imagine our position when it comes to other cultural norms and practises that harm rather than add value to our collective identity?

In this room we have a group of digital rights stakeholders, keen on securing internet freedom for all, regardless of sexual identity, age, religious beliefs and occupational identity. Our goals are pretty audacious, realistic, but audacious all the same:

  1. Connect the next billion?!
  2. Close the gender gap online?!

Cultural norms are inhibiting us from reaching our goals as digital rights stakeholders, so how are we addressing that? Beyond increasing infrastructural coverage, digital literacy, policy reform how are we fixing the disconnect between our cultural norms and digital rights goals?

At the iHub we are taking the time to address these cultural norms that are inhibiting our progress online one user at a time, by providing young people with informal spaces to challenge these beliefs.

In the Aftermath of Ifikie Wazazi: Social Media, Safety and Consent

The hashtag Ifikie Wazazi (I will not link it in order to avoid affording any more visibility to the hashtag) whose objective was to expose young Kenyans, mostly minors to their parents in order to instil discipline upon them, albeit in this convoluted mechanism, recently rocked our social media timelines and still dominates a lot of conversations offline with the theme “Where are the Youth of our country really headed?”. This will not be a ‘morality’ (whatever that means to you) post, there’s hundreds of hot takes online that do that justice, this post will however cover issues on consent, privacy and online safety.

A quick summary of the hashtag and its contents:

On 11th April is when the first tweet under the hashtag appeared, which consisted of screen grabs from Whatsapp of sexually provocative images of young kenyans presenting as couples in various states of undress. The images even though some didn’t reveal the faces, were albeit tagged with the handles of the subjects. It seems that the individuals sharing the images are mutual friends who had access to those captioned and chose to share them with the wider public with words like: “kasongee mpaka kanisa yao” let it reach even their churches; “Iendelee kapsaa ifikie husband to be” let it continue until it reaches their husband to be; “Hii ifike mpaka ancestors” this one let it reach the ancestors. This “ifikie wazazi” momentum seemed to have began on Whatsapp.

Whatsapp

According to a 2017 report released by Nendo, Whatsapp has over 12 million monthly1 active users1 with this figure set to grow as levels of internet penetration in the country continue to increase. As with most cases of increased connectivity the increase of cybersecurity issues tend to also follow suit as more and more people get online, especially without the adequate education as is the case with many Kenyans who are not aware or overly worried about issues relating to privacy, security and safety online.

Whatsapp is in comparison ‘private’ as compared to Twitter, because of the very reason that you can only view someone’s status (Snapchat’s story function encrypted clone) if you are mutual contacts, with the other person as long as that they have not hidden their story from you. It is evident Whatsapp wasn’t giving the hashtag the life it needed to actually ‘fikia wazazi’ aka reach the parents. On Twitter is where the hashtag got injected with the steam it needed to permeate all our social media timelines and even the television screens in our homes.

The Law

For this section of the post I will outline Section 26 through 28 of Part IV of the Cybersecurity and Protection Bill 20162 and why in this case ‘Ifikie Wazazi’ dangerously infringed the law or where infractions casually came too close for comfort.

  1. A person who, through any computer system or network, proposes, grooms or solicits to meet a child for the purpose of engaging in sexual activities with the child, commits an offence and shall be liable upon conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding twenty five years or to a fine not exceeding two hundred and fifty thousand shillings or both.

If we made the assumption that the subjects in the photographs were minors, or where one was a minor and/or the one taking the photographs was an adult this could be an instance where some type of solicitation or grooming took place to create sexually provocative scenes and images. This setting if not illegal could very well pose risky in the event minors are in any way involved.

  1. A person who intentionally transmits or causes the transmission of any communication through a

computer system or network to bully, threaten or harass another person, where such communication

places another person in fear of death, violence or bodily harm, commits an offence and is liable on

conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years or a fine not exceeding two hundred thousand shillings or both.

  1. A person who transfers, publishes, or disseminates, including making a digital depiction available for distribution or downloading through a ‘telecommunications network or through any other means of

transferring data to a computer, the intimate image of another person commits an offence and is liable, on conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding thirty years or fine not exceeding three hundred thousand shillings or both.

The very nature of the hashtag, which was either uploading and/or sharing (via the Retweet function) pictures of young kenyans which we have already established were sexually provocative (whether they were minors or not) with the intent to shame constitutes bullying, threatening and harassment with the intent to embarrass and invoke punishment by the guardians of the subjects. Furthermore, as a result of these pictures these subjects faced an inordinate amount of threatening, targeted harassment for the mere fact that they took these pictures and were now available for the entire of Kenyans on Twitter to critique.

As I have mentioned in several of my blog posts on the iHub website, women online face more harassment than men and even by perusing the comments on the hashtag there seems to be more negative sentiments and comments targeting the women as compared to the men most definitely attributed to the patriarchal nature of Kenyan culture.

Aftermath

Reports in the media have reported that police officers stormed Nairobi Michuki Park where several teenagers were arrested while engaging in illicit activities including taking nude and semi-nude images. Beyond these repercussions of jail time, there is other elements that the subjects of these pictures have had to grapple with since the hashtag surfaced.

We may not be willing to acknowledge this but one of the more common effects of cyberbullying and online harassment, especially on this scale and targeted at minors is emotional degradation that may even result in lifelong scars especially if not addressed by seeking professional health.

We all know “the internet never forgets” and unfortunately, the images and names associated with the Ifikie Wazazi hashtag have been immortalised by the internet and this presents the subjects with an impossible situation considering the compromising pictures that will probably plague them into the future when trying to establish both professional and personal relationships.

Conclusion

According to the Internet Users statistics the African continent contributes just over 10% of the global internet users, with this number set to increase as well as the impact of the digital economy, this is not the time to discourage more users getting online (especially the youth who consist more than half of our populations), but encourage more to get online albeit with the necessary education of how to do it safely and most effectively.

Many users online have weighed in on their opinion of the hashtag as well as its aftermath. However, in my opinion one thing remains extremely evident is that Kenyans both young and old and especially those who participated in the hashtag whether willingly or without consent need to be equipped with more resources to educate them of their rights online and how to protect themselves online in the face of highly charged state of social media platforms in Kenya.

As I come to the end of this post I would also like to question how exactly the Cybersecurity and Protection Bill 2016 is currently being enforced, is it protecting users? Was it crafted with Kenyan’s rights in mind? Is it being used for intimidation or any unlawful actions? Is it ambiguous? All these questions when answered effectively, can steer us closer to having an ideal policy that protects its users while also prioritising the sustainability and freedom of online spaces in Kenya.

iHub through the Research initiative recently launched their online safety workshops, the first phase specifically targeting young women enrolled in tertiary institutions. In the event you are interested in attending or replicating similar trainings for members of your institution please reach out to us on research@ihub.co.ke

1State of the Internet in Kenya Report 2017

https://www.ifree.co.ke/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/State-of-the-Internet-in-Kenya-report-2017.pdf

2Cybersecurity and Protection Bill 2016

http://www.kenyalaw.org/kl/fileadmin/pdfdownloads/bills/2016/CyberSecurityandProtectionBill_2016.pdf

 

The Role of Digital Jobs in Solving Youth Unemployment in Kenya.

iHub Research in 2014 published a report on Digital Jobs in Kenya, fast forward to 2018 how far are we? A key insight presented in the report was that there existed a digital skills gap between theoretical skills, attained by youth through various programs, and practical skills, sought after by employers despite the existence of the key trends of: online work, big data analytics, and the mobile applications sector which present great potential for large-scale digital job creation in the future.

February 2018, unemployment is hitting record highs of 39.1% in Kenya, based on a report by the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI) 2017 and in its midst there’s been concerted efforts towards encouraging entrepreneurship, it’s clear that we need to innovate around solving the problem of unemployment.

In December 2016 the government of Kenya launched the online jobs portal, Ajira in a bid to take advantage of ICTs in eradicating unemployment specifically targeting the youth, with the promise that it would equip 1 million Kenyans with digital skills so that they can secure employment. Ajira’s tag line which states “Online WORK is WORK” aims to raise the profile of online work, promote a mentorship and collaborative learning approach to finding online work, provide Kenyans with access to online work and finally to promote Kenya as a destination for online work.

Since its launch we’ve barely heard of progress, statistics or testimonies of the users of the platform. We do know that together with Kenya Private Sector Alliance, the Ministry of ICT as a result of funding from the Rockefeller Foundation are implementing the first phase of the Ajira mentorship program, to train and mentor future young online workers. Will this be the reason Ajira and the concept of digital work will successfully scale in Kenya?

The concept of digital work is definitely not one that is new in Kenya and definitely not across the world, from where we can learn great lessons. Already existing in Kenya is the platform KuHustle that has 32,000 plus online workers, with over 1,000 jobs posted worth over $920,000.

In order to adequately take advantage of this opportunity it is paramount to address the barriers affecting the job market as a whole in Kenya and creating mechanisms to overcome these barriers. Based on estimates from the government before the launch of Ajira in 2016, it was assumed that there were already 40,000 Kenyans working online and as adoption of technology and the Internet is gradually increasing in the country, this number has most definitely increased and has the potential to continue to do so, with time.

Digital job platforms serve the purpose of easing the process of connecting employers to a competitive selection of employees from different locations, background and privilege so long as they have an internet connection, meanwhile it seems in this central narrative that technology in the form of digital jobs will be the salve of solving youth unemployment. How true is this assessment?

There is no doubt that digital jobs will definitely enable and increase the possibility of a greater percentage of the young population in Kenya (who are possibly marginalised due to issues surrounding lack of access) to acquire formal employment at higher wages than they would have previously probably acquired. Beyond the basic digital skill gap that is being addressed through training and mentorship by government initiatives, there exists huge demand for specialised skills, such as developers, data scientists, which the current supply levels fail to meet and this is an example of some of the fundamental barriers affecting the job market in Kenya, that need to be addressed while also focusing on digital jobs.

By utilising this multi stakeholder and multi dimensional perspective in analysing the challenges currently being faced in the job market in Kenya today  this approach will propel us closer to solving the issue of youth unemployment.