As it appeared in the Daily Nation on February 21st 2017
My first experience with an Internet Service Providers (ISPs) was in 2001. At that time, we had a traditional dial up service through the telephone system. That was in the USA where internet penetration then was then reported to be at about 40%. In Kenya, the internet penetration at that time was below 1% and home internet was unheard off. I do not quite recall the internet speeds but I remember that in those days internet consumers were extremely patient and forgiving.
Today, we live in different times. Internet services have not only become faster but they have also become more accessible. Many customers currently exposed to hi-speed internet many not have had an experience with dial up connections. At the comfort of their homes, most Kenyans can now access the internet either through their phones or via the services of internet service providers. In most offices, malls, hotels, at restaurants, at the universities, at the airports, in hospitals and other public places there is free internet. As a value add to the customer experience, free Wi-Fi has today become a basic expectation in such places. The speed of the internet too has improved considerably. With higher speeds, customers are no longer as patient as they were 16 years ago. Speed and minimal outages if any are today key expectations of internet services consumers.
In Kenya and off course in the rest of the world, internet connection has become extremely important. Kenya has in particular hit major milestones in internet services provision and has been noted as having a higher internet penetration than the rest of Africa. If you have travelled to the neighboring countries, it is likely that you recognize that our internet services are far much better in terms of cost, speed and uptime and are therefore more forgiving to our ISPs.
Many Kenyans with internet access are usually always online. This is not only because there are many services offered online or require connectivity but also because of proliferation of social networks keeping people online. Unfortunately though we have a limited number of internet services providers especially for affordable home internet services. For home and mobile users, it is not easy for a layman to test internet speed both for downloads and uploads and sometimes service goes missing for minutes or hours and even days in some neighborhoods. As a result, we have occasionally had to withstand mediocre internet services.
Traditionally, internet services providers were not highly rated in terms of service and responsiveness to customer issues globally. However, today this has changed considerably as the market becomes more and more competitive and customers become more informed. Any outage of internet services however short-lived is easily noticeable by anyone online. Maybe we would like to tweet more about internet outages but a tweet often requires one to be online. Even though internet outages often results to immediate disgruntlement, customers continue using their ISPs because of the limited choices and the set-up costs involved. May be one day soon the switching costs from one ISP to another will be at zero and we will not have to continue using ISPs that we detest.
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy