(Xinhua/John Okoyo)
INTERNATIONAL – Internet charges have drastically dropped in Kenya as telecommunication firms intensify battle for the fast-growing data market.

Besides the low internet charges, the telecommunication firms are also offering free social media access, enabling the youth to spend more time online.

The service providers namely Safaricom, Telkom and Airtel are also throwing in to their subscribers free intra network calls and text messages as mobile phone charges in the east Africa's biggest economy decline.

"I do online writing work, internet charges are now the least of my worries because even with 0.17 dollars, I can still access 100MB, which is more than what I need," Valerie Ndodo, a sociology graduate said on Tuesday.

Most of the telecommunication firms offer internet bundles that last from a day to a month, with prices ranging from 0.08 dollars to 27 dollars for 36GB data.

The low internet charges have enabled Ndodo work on some projects that require one to be online all-through as they work.

"Some clients want you to work as they monitor, what cannot be possible if internet charges are expensive," said Ndodo, who earns at least 25 dollars per project.

For university students, the low internet charges have become a boon when it comes to doing research.

"Most of the assignments need one to read widely and this means you must download plenty of documents. You cannot do that if internet charges are high," said Vincent Macharia, a student at University of Nairobi.

Macharia noted that with the low internet costs, he no longer visits university computer labs where usage is timed for assignments.

The low internet charges have given a huge boost to online business, with more Kenyans now selling and buying commodities via the Internet.

Motorbike and vehicle taxi operators who use hailing apps that require them to be online throughout to get clients are also relishing the low internet charges.

"Eighty MB that I buy for 0.18 dollars is enough to last me a day. I never even feel that I am spending anything for the Internet," said Michael Kiarie, a motorbike taxi operator in Kitengela enrolled to Taxify, one of the hailing firms.

Bernard Mwaso of Edell IT Solution in Nairobi observed that Kenyans need even lower internet charges to spur business.

"The Internet has given birth to many opportunities in Kenya. We have seen a rise in young online consumers, which is one of the fields the Internet has opened up." he said.

According to the Communication Authority of Kenya, at the end of the March, the total data/internet subscriptions in Kenya stood at 46.8 million, up from 45.3 million in previous quarter with 99 percent of them access the service via mobile phone.

XINHUA