SIMElab launches social media consumption in Kenya report

L-R: Dr. Patrick Wamuyu, Associate Professor, USIU-Africa, Paul Watzlavick, the Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy, Prof. Paul Zeleza, Vice Chancellor, USIU-Africa and Dr. Kioko Ireri, Associate Professor, USIU-Africa launch the Social Media Consumption in Kenya report. PHOTO:Charles Ndirangu

By Taigu Muchiri

USIU-Africa in partnership with the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi launched the Social Media Consumption in Kenya report on July 17. The report is a research project which was undertaken by SIMElab which is the first is a social media consumption and analytics research lab designed specifically to study social media in all of Africa. The survey sampled 3,269 respondents aged between 14 and 55 from eight counties drawn from Nairobi, Coast, Central, Western, Nyanza, Eastern, Rift Valley, and North Eastern between December 2018 and March 2019.

According to the 2017/2018 Communication Authority of Kenya report, the number of mobile data subscriptions in Kenya currently stands at 40.7 million, 38 percent more than in the same period the previous year, with the internet penetration in the country at 83 percent based on the Internet World Statistics. This indicates that a majority of Kenyans have access to the internet through their mobile phones, computers and internet enabled devices. This has led to the growth of internet consumption in Kenya at home (70 percent), at the office and on the go using mobile internet access or public WIFIs (58 percent). Access to the internet is almost at par both in the rural and urban areas both averaging between 40-50 percent with the majority of Kenyans spending between 30 minutes to three hours on the internet daily. While most Kenyans use social media to stay in touch with friends and family, the survey found the main reasons they use social media were to access news, politics, and entertainment. The study also showed that a majority of Kenyans use WhatsApp and Facebook as their preferred platforms, with 88.6 percent using WhatsApp and 88.5 percent using Facebook.

Speaking during the report launch event, Paul Watzlavick, the Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy, said, “The United States is proud to support SIMELab and their groundbreaking research into Kenyan social media. The future is digital, so that’s where we need to be: generating innovative solutions to global challenges together.”

The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Paul Zeleza mentioned that Kenya is leading in social media usage in Africa and it has become an increasingly available platform to young people who are using it to create jobs in the digital space. He further added that the lab is one of a kind in East Africa researching on the youth about the issues that matter to them the most.

The research lab is an interdisciplinary center formed to undertake research in big data and social media analytics by blending theoretical frameworks and analysis from academia with the experiences of businesses, government, and civil society. The lab will further provide consultancy services to support a wide range of research such as impact evaluation, advocacy, training, and education. The lab received a grant of over 20 million Kenyan shillings from the U.S. Embassy as a sign of the United States’ commitment to addressing key social media issues in Kenya and Africa, including fighting fake news and misinformation through the ongoing #StopReflectVerify campaign. Read the full report here

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