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Connectivity in Kenya

I am sitting here in my very simple hotel room in Rongo town in Western Kenya, looking over notes for the start of our field research later this week. I have been surfing the net without problem using a 3G card that is much cheaper than anything one could do in the U.S. And after years and years of using cell phones in Africa, I still can’t get over that I can call home with a crysal clear connection. But as I am going through some of the census data we have for this area, it appears that in 2009, more than 95% of people in this area responded “never” to the question of how often they use the internet. To be certain, Kenya has been blazing ahead in terms of information technology, and their cell-phone based payment system (m-pesa) sets international standards. And perhaps in our surveys, we will find that the uptake has grown since then — but I’ve heard that this is unlikely. People around here are  simply not exposed to the incredibly rich content that is actually already available. This is a digital divide that ought to be bridgeable.

About Evan Lieberman

I am a Professor of Political Science at MIT, and I conduct research, write, and teach about development, ethnic politics, and research methods.

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