iHub Research, Research Solutions Africa, and infoDev have released the final report looking at how Kenyans living on less than $2.50 a day are using mobile phones. The Kenya case study is part of a large, multi-country research commissioned by infoDev about the use of mobile phones at the Base of the Pyramid (BoP), the poorest people around the world. The research program is supported by UKaid, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Government of Finland and SIDA (Sweden).
The Kenya study, carried among 800 mobile users in six locations across the country, found that most people at the BOP (60%) have access to mobile phones, but do not exploit the phone’s full potential by using applications (except for M-PESA). This is due to lacking awareness/marketing campaigns, confusion about the difference between applications, phone functionalities, and Internet, and challenges in the use of USSD/SMS applications.
Based on insights gained from the research, we advise mobile application developers focused on BoP to develop for their users’ specific needs, and carefully ponder their technological platform choice. We believe that due to the difficulties faced by mobile application start-ups for scaling, collaboration amongst the stakeholders in the mobile telephony industry is critical for relevant mobile applications to reach the BoP. The fact that no applications beyond M-PESA have found a wide user base shows that efforts by individual organizations are unlikely to reach the required critical mass for impact. If Government, MNOs, Donors and Investors, and Local Content Developers can form meaningful partnerships, the applications being developed locally may be able to scale further and faster, thereby hopefully helping to alleviate some of the poverty at the base of the pyramid in Kenya.
A sister base of the pyramid study was carried out in South Africa by Research ICT Africa and Intelecon and builds on a broader household survey of ICT usage across 12 countries in Africa funded by IDRC (Canada). The report shows that, in South Africa, even among BoP populations, some three-quarters already have phones, but usage of data applications is fairly low. The one exception here is the MXit social networking platform and there is growing use of other social media, notably Facebook Zero. But other applications, such as mobile money, do not seem to be well targeted to the poor.
The two publications can be downloaded on infoDev’s publications web page.
For a direct download of the Kenya study (pdf), click here.