By Anant Shah
Published: March 8, 2007
Cell phones are simply cheaper and more accessible in Kenya than PCs and the Internet.
With a per capita income of $1,200, many Kenyans cannot afford computers, much less reliable Internet access. But Kenya has readily adopted the cell phone.
In a popular advertisement, Kenya's leading mobile phone service provider, captures the accessibility of this technology. A Masai warrior, dressed in the famous Masai red blanket, stands in the middle of a vast plain holding a walking staff in one hand and a mobile phone in the other. Hardly an exaggeration, this anachronistic image is an increasingly common occurrence in Kenya.
The Central Bank of Kenya estimates that there are 6.5 million mobile phone subscribers in a national population of 34 million. There are nearly 100,000 new subscribers each month.
In comparison, a 2000 report from the African Internet and Telecom Summit estimated that there were only 50,000 Internet subscribers, with a growth rate of 300 per month.
Mobile phones have dwarfed the Internet and therefore have tremendous potential to improve health communication and surveillance across Kenya.
Reprinted from: The Yale Journal of Public Health (Winter 2007).
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