7 Ways In Which The Internet Has Enabled Digital Lifestyles In Kenya & Africa Due To The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Disease

It’s now more or less accepted that the coronavirus (COVID-19) has reached pandemic status as infections are being reported from every corner of the world including Kenya and Africa this past week. It, therefore, stands to reason that our lifestyles are going through dramatic changes as we all look for practical ways to minimize the risk of coronavirus infection whilst also maintaining a sense of normality under the circumstances.

The coronavirus is largely transmitted through close proximity with infected persons and this means everyone is avoiding places and activities that could lead to increased risk of infection. In light of this, one of the most surprising developments has been how fundamental the Internet has become to how we work and play in Kenya and Africa in the era of the coronavirus. Here are the seven areas that I have identified as enabled via the Internet that could have a long-term and transformative impact on our lifestyles:

Churches Are Live Streaming, Everywhere.

As of this morning, due to a Government directive from the Ministry of Health in Kenya that large gatherings should not happen for as long as the coronavirus threat exists, many churches have resorted to live streaming their services via the Internet on Facebook and YouTube. Indeed, churches in Kenya had already made the transition in the past to live streaming their services to reaching a digitally inclined and more global congregation via the Internet but this escalated massively this week as many hastily cobbled together basic live streaming capabilities using smartphones for a start.

Although rudimentary at this stage for many churches, the live streaming trend will accelerate going forward and churches will invest massively to have professional-grade broadcasting capabilities. This will mean churches investing in professional video cameras, live streaming hardware and software, online donation platforms as well as much better Internet bandwidth to deliver higher quality church services online. Change is coming for sure and it’s just getting started.

E-Learning, Across The Board, Is Becoming Essential

Many schools in Kenya and especially private schools and institutions of higher learning have invested in e-learning solutions that enable students to acquire knowledge online. However, in many instances, they have tended to be secondary to more traditional modes of delivering curriculum and courses in a typical classroom scenario.

Due to the coronavirus, we are seeing a scenario where many schools have started using their e-learning capabilities much more aggressively as they look at the very real prospect of their schools being closed as has already happened in many countries globally. More and more classes are going online and the schools that lack e-learning capabilities are quickly integrating these capabilities so that they can continue to operate in the event schools are closed.

Remote Working Is Becoming Commonplace.

Given that places of work across Kenya and Africa are obviously risky given that many offices typically have a large number of people in a closed space that could act as a catalyst for coronavirus infection, we are seeing a scenario where many organizations have started either offering or insisting that their employees work remotely. There is also the question of many employees in Kenya using public transport to commute to and from work and that again is an inherently risky activity given how packed our matatus (minivans) and buses tend to be on any given day.

My sense is that although this has been happening for some time in Kenyan organizations and especially those operating in the technology services space, this trend is going to become much more prevalent. All that is typically required is for one to have an Internet connection at home or on their mobile device that allows them to securely access their organization’s digital network to function efficiently and effectively using a virtual private network (VPN).

E-Commerce Is Becoming Essential For Consumer Shopping.

This Friday I saw pictures on several WhatsApp groups of what could only be described as mass pandemonium as many consumers descended on supermarkets nationwide in Kenya to do their panic shopping thanks to fears of stocks running out due to the coronavirus. This in itself makes even shopping at a supermarket a risky exercise as many shoppers converge in one place at the same time increasing the potential for infection.

Enter e-commerce. As of this writing, many consumers in Kenya are resorting to e-commerce as one of the ways they can purchase their groceries and other regular purchases without having to leave their homes and increase the likelihood of becoming infected by the coronavirus. E-Commence companies in Kenya are seeing a major spike in sales as consumers resort to this approach for all their shopping needs.

On-Demand Digital Logistics Are Growing,

As consumers and businesses avoid being in crowded spaces in Kenya, one of the other areas that has also gotten a major shot in the arm due to the coronavirus is on-demand logistics. This means that as people avoid going to work or leaving their homes, they are using on-demand logistics companies operating in B2C, B2B and C2C to do their deliveries and pick-ups from the comfort of their computers, as well as mobile apps on their tablets and mobile phones.

We know that digital services companies like Uber, Sendy, Jumia, and Glovo that specialize in on-demand logistics have seen improved business this past week and this trend is set to accelerate as consumers and businesses resort to their offerings as a way of avoiding them having to move around in person. As people also avoid restaurants, this will be one of the ways that they can still have a variety of meals ordered in even if they can’t or won’t leave their homes for extended periods of time.

Digital Content Consumption & Creation Is Exploding

As the saying goes, ‘Netflix and ….’. As more and more people in Kenya and Africa opt to stay at home and avoid leaving (unless it’s absolutely necessary to do so), digital entertainment services have become incredibly popular during the past week or so. This means the likes of YouTube, ShowMax and Netflix who offer on-demand video streaming content are probably seeing a massive uptick in Kenya in terms of consumption trends.

In addition, video games that have an online aspect are also going to see increased uptake due to their social capabilities. The same also applies to social media which has become a key vector for content dissemination, at scale, where the coronavirus is concerned in terms of keeping everyone updated on what is or is not happening, including fake news of all sorts.

As digital content consumption and creation explodes, another factor would be that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will see their networks and bandwidth uptake growing massively requiring them to upgrade their services to cope with the current coronavirus-driven demand being generated at the moment. Ultimately, we could see a permanent change of behavior where digital content consumption and creation in Kenya and Africa is concerned on this basis.

Digital Conferencing Is Rising, Fast.

The sheer number of conferences and other large gatherings that have been canceled altogether or rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic on a global scale is nothing short of epic. Kenya and Africa have not been spared this trend and many conferences will no longer happen here in the next few months. This presents a conundrum of sorts for conference organizers, many have resorted to relaunching them as digital-only events.

The adoption of digital conferencing at scale in Kenya and Africa will be interesting in that as a major destination for events and conferences, loss of revenue from accommodation and event hosting spaces will be huge. However, it also means that from a technology standpoint we could see more conferences being executed in this manner, going forward. This will be more cost-effective but we will lose the intimacy of in-person engagement that is so fundamental to what a traditional conference is all about. 

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