This is part of a series of posts on the impact of Rich Interaction Applications (RIAs).
On August 8th, Kenya voted in its fifth round of elections and elected Uhuru Kenyatta as the winner with just over 54% of the votes. In the past, Kenya’s voting procedures have been overrun with corruption and inconsistencies, but in this election cycle Rich Interaction Applications (RIAs) were used to ensure a freer and fairer election. RIAs were found in Kenyan polling stations to promote transparency. Real-time numbers, electronically transmitted by officers at polling stations, were posted to various social medias by election observers. Other RIAs used during the elections allowed mapped voting, tracked communications from activists and civil society, and helped to alert officials about violent outbreaks and possible cases of fraud.
The application of mobile technologies in the Kenyan election is an example of the increasing use of RIAs across many African nations. This technology has allowed those nations to skip the landline phase and go straight into the digital age, bolstering economic and social development. The rise of mobile technologies in Africa has been fast. In 2002, 1 in 10 people owned a mobile phone in countries like Tanzania and Kenya whereas at the same time in the United States a little more than half the country had cell phones. Today, cell phones are just as common in African countries like South Africa and Nigeria as they are in the United States.
With higher cellphone adoption, Africans have found new ways to communicate and engage in commerce through RIAs, which facilitate “rich interaction” with messaging, mobile banking, and photography or videography components. RIAs are growing in popularity across the world and have contributed to a $5.6 trillion increase in global GDP for every ten percent increase in RIA usage. The rising popularity of RIA in African countries parallels the increase of RIAs globally. Beyond facilitating economic growth, RIAs are helping combat major issues in African countries like poor education, high unemployment rates, and low economic growth.