Digital Trends To Watch Out For In 2014

It’s January, and from a personal and business perspective, it’s the month that brings the optimist within us. We are rather reflective of the past and more affirmative about the future. Which brings me to the questions; What will the year be like in the digital space? What are the trends to watch out for? And below are the three aspects that I believe will set the tone for this year.

Digital Migration

We have seen the Ads, probably contributed to the Twitter trends, read about the court battles and even gone ahead to purchase the set-top boxes but do we understand what really this means? According to Digital Kenya, the first benefit provided for the analog to digital signal migration is, wait for it, better picture quality! You must be thinking; but I have an HD TV, or my aerial is erected 100 feet up the sky, I’m doing alright, these people should stop bothering me with unnecessary expenses! 

Well, it’s a valid benefit but not the type you write at the top. At the bottom of the list is better utilization of frequencies, and that is the fundamental (oh, I love this word!) reason for this process. Once analog transmissions are switched off, a large amount of radio frequency spectrum will be released, and can then be utilized for broadband amongst other broadcasting and communication services. Basically, unclogging the spectrum makes it possible to connect the masses to the Internet.

Cashless Payment

In 2014, you don’t need to carry cash around anymore. Simply load it up on M-Pesa and pay at the till or/and at your local mama mboga, she now has a Lipa Na Mpesa number. A quarter of our economy flows through this mobile payment system, and you still wondering why it’s not the 8th world wonder 🙂 Convenience and security have made it really attractive to the end users.

It gets quite interesting with Bebapay – a rather new mode of payment recently introduced in partnership between Google and Equity. Formerly known as Bebacard, Bebapay is an NFC card that allows you to tap and pay (your bus fare) – just two steps; tap and pay!

In effect, all PSVs are required to implement and operate a cashless fare payment system by July 2014, this is according to the National Transport and Safety Authority. It should be exciting tapping away your bus fare compared to always being asked “uko na 10 bob nikupee 20 bob?”.


Do you remember Kalahari? You just might. It was an online shopping site, they shut down Kenya and Nigeria operations in late 2011 citing low margins. Kalahari still remains operational in other countries, notably South Africa. Fast forward to 2014 and you probably have heard about Jumia and Rupu. Both these platforms offer consumers the ability to shop at their comfort, conveniently pay using both local and international solutions and have their shopping safely delivered to their pre-specified address. Mainstay e-commerce solutions like Mama Mike’s, have diligently served the diaspora over the years.

In the report, Lions Go Digital, by McKinsey Institute, Internet usage in Africa is rapidly growing and could add $300 billion a year to the continent’s GDP by the year 2025.  The e-commerce industry is specifically estimated to contribute $75 billion.

Is this however the year that e-commerce takes off? I wouldn’t bet on but it will make major steps forward. The following factors will contribute to this:

  • Finalization of Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) by the Ministry of ICT will enable virtual secure identities,
  • The popularity of OLX (an online marketplace) allows buyers to meet sellers – it however doesn’t provide a payment module,
  • The blossoming middle class is continuously seeking convenience and comfort in shopping,
  • Trustworthy cashless payment solutions are already being widely utilized by the public and
  • Posta is working to improve the national addressing system (this will make deliveries more prompt and accurate)

Importantly, I would like to see our local supermarkets embracing this fundamental shift.

While the three mentioned trends will greatly influence the goings in the digital universe this year, we should remain open to surprises like the invasion of 3D printing (I think it’s the coolest thing since Elijah rode a chariot to heaven). Wish you a happy and “digital” year ahead.

Fred Kithinzi

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