Kenya has an estimated population of 40 million people, 76% of whom live in the rural areas, according to UNESCO Institute for Statistics (2010). The population in absolute poverty was estimated to be 67% by 2005. Gender inequalities persist across many areas of development, particularly in employment, poverty, reproductive health, political participation and the fulfillment of human rights. Kenya’s Human Development Index value for 2011 is 0.509 – in the low human development category, positioning the country at 143 out of 187 countries and territories.
ICTs in the country
Kenya continues to experience growth in the ICT sector as demonstrated by the number of mobile phone subscribers, internet users and broadcasting stations. According to Communications Commission of Kenya, the spread of internet especially in un-served areas is hampered by high operation and maintenance costs – in particular due to lack of electricity, access to roads and in providing security for the infrastructure deployed (vandalism), high licenses and spectrum fees, and lack of definition of spectrum policy for voice and data services. Low level of ICT’s knowledge and high illiteracy rates among disadvantaged groups, especially women and the aged in Kenya, also continue to limit the full use of ICTs.
However, Internet penetration has continued to rise gradually in Kenya, from 7.9 percent in 2008 to about 15 percent, or about fourteen million users, in 2011. Its internet penetration has been bolstered by mobile internet connections and an increase in internet bandwidth capacity. The growth of mobile subscriptions is on an upward trend with mobile handsets not only becoming the medium of communication but also for accessing other value added services like data and internet, entertainment, and mobile money transfer.
Local radios in the country
In Kenya out of the 372 radio frequencies allocated, 233 are being utilized. Most of the radio stations cover Kenya’s major towns. Radio listenership, which is dominant and cheaper, has been enhanced by radio receivers in public transport and increased use of mobile phones that receive radio signals.
Importance of support to local radios
There is great need to upscale established local radio stations with a focus on sustainability. Few independent private local stations operate in local areas as most local radio stations are affiliated to big media houses, such as Royal Media Services or Capital Group. Local radio stations face challenges such as human and technical capacity building – including training on radio local content production, sustainability strategies, the reach, ethical issues guiding the management and editorial policies, continued independence from political influences and overall development of the sector to meet the local community needs.