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Public Health Communication in Kenya: Why the mobile phone instead of the conventional computer and Internet?

By Anant Shah
Published: March 8, 2007

Photo: Person using a PDA while others look on
Photo by Anant Shah

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.

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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).

Click here to download the full article text ( PDF, 1.12 MB)

Content Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Page last modified: April 19, 2007
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