Opera quits free data in Kenya in regulatory bowdown

Opera Mini, owned by Norwegian web innovator Opera, has discontinued its free data campaign in Kenya amid increased pressure from local authorities.

The initiative, launched in 2020 under an agreement with the largest telcos in the country, every day gives 50 megabytes to people using Opera Mini, Opera News, and Opera News Lite with their Safaricom or Airtel lines.

The package came during the pandemic, a pivotal moment when staying connected became paramount.
In a statement announcing the discontinuation, Opera pointed directly to the local authorities’ decision to stop advertising on speed dials within browsers. However, the company appears to be on the lookout for a solution that can help it resume the service.

“We appreciate your understanding, and would like to thank you for your patience as we work towards reaching a positive outcome,” – the statement reads.

“As an organization that prides itself in offering customer-driven data solutions, Opera aims to contribute towards bridging the digital divide and offering seamless browsing experiences to all the users including those who browse using feature phones,” – the firm explains.

Kenya is becoming more stringent in its approach to regulating digital advertising. Its Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) in January ordered a halt to ads on bookmarks at the start page of mobile web browsers.

The BCLB’s ruling came shortly after the Consumer Federation of Kenya, in a move to protect minors using the application to access the internet, petitioned the board to stop showing “predatory” sports betting ads on browsing apps.

Opera Mini has 13.5 million users in the market; most of whom use feature phones. Under the free initiative, in 2023 alone, it provided more than $11 million (KES 1.6 billion) worth of internet bundles, equivalent to over 4 million gigabytes.

Internet costs are high in Kenya, where smartphone penetration stands at 61%. Users pay an average of $1.76 (KES 280.8) for every megabyte, more than twice the price in South Africa ($0.60) and Egypt ($0.16).

Data from the communications authority shows that as of between October and December 2023, there were no less than 31.8 million feature phones in the market.

Source: benjamindada.com

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