Mobile apps make life easier, boost ICT use in Kenya

On Friday afternoon, Nairobi resident Stephen Amboko downloaded a mobile app that had been launched recently to try using it.

Amboko, who is a frequent traveler to western Kenya where his family lives, was used to walking to the bus company to physically book for a vehicle.

But he had heard of the launch of the app dubbed BuuPass, which allows travelers to book for their journeys aboard long-distance buses and pay via mobile money.

“I don’t think I will ever walk again to the bus company because the app has saved me from the hustle,” said the pharmacist.

The app is among dozens in the east African nation that are making lives easier for citizens.

The development and use of mobile apps has been on the rise in Kenya, fanned by rising ownership of smartphones with apps that can perform “everything.”

To pay for utility bills that include for water, electricity and pay TV, all one has to do is to have an app that has the pay-bill numbers for various firms.

To use a taxi or hire a motorbike, Kenyans have an array of apps to choose from, such as Uber and Bolt, known earlier as Taxify.

To pay school fees, parents are using a number of apps, some belonging to individual schools.

To get loans, Kenyans have over 50 apps that they can turn to.

They can also hunt for houses from the comfort of their couches, with the help of mobile apps.

“Life has never been this easier. I now order my food or snacks from the comfort of my desk while I am in the office or bed while at home,” said Caroline Mueni, who loves cakes and pizza.

A good number of the apps are home-grown, some developed by individuals while others by institutions like leading telecommunications firm Safaricom, which is also partnering with various entities.

The company partnered with BuuPass, with chief enterprise business officer Rita Okuthe saying the business seeks to extend the convenience of its mobile money service Mpesa and empower bus companies to manage customer ticketing and cashless payments.

Safaricom also runs DigiFarm, a mobile app that offers smallholder farmers agricultural information and financial services, including discounted farm inputs.

Fred Kiio, who heads M-Agribusiness at Safaricom, said in a recent interview that mobile apps are opening untapped potential not only in agriculture but also in other sectors.

Bernard Mwaso of Edell IT Solution noted that two things have led to the surging use of apps in Kenya.

“One is the increased uptake of smartphones, which allows Kenyans to download the programs from the app stores and use them,” he said, noting that over 60 percent of phones used by Kenyans now are smartphones.

The second is the wide use of mobile money, which has made it easy for organizations to come up with apps that integrate digital payments, Mwaso said.

“These apps are not only helping in the growth of software development in the country but are also supporting auxiliary industries like the courier services, which have registered a huge boom due to increased e-commerce,” he said.

Kenya has over 32 million mobile money subscribers, 46 million internet users and 50 million mobile phone users, according to the latest data from the Communication Authorities, numbers that are boosting app usage.

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