Opera Suspends Free Data in Kenya Amidst Regulatory Backlash

In an unexpected turn of events, Opera, the renowned multi-platform web browser, has pressed pause on its free data initiatives in Kenya. This decision comes in response to regulatory directives from local authorities concerning advertisements displayed on speed dials within web browsers.

Opera has been giving Kenyan users free data bundles for the last four years, and now they want to end this offer owing to recent developments. Opera had started sharing data with the goal of reducing the digital gap in sub-Saharan Africa by making internet more available to all people.

Regulatory bodies like the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) have stepped in, shaking up Opera’s plans. Their latest directive puts a halt to licensed betting firms advertising on the Opera browser’s speed dial feature without proper regulatory approval. This move came after concerns were raised by the Consumer Federation of Kenya about minors being exposed to betting ads.

It’s a major blow for Opera, as they have been working hard to facilitate internet access in Kenya through the free data offering. But now with the latest developments, the company is rethinking on how to approach the current situation. What this means is that Opera will have to navigate complicated legislations to proceed with the service that according to them might not prove worthwhile.

Despite Opera’s initiative to give free data bundles to most of us here in Kenya who need it, and the number is said to be over 13.5 million Kenyans, users who were primarily using the so-called feature phones, for those who might not resonate with the term it means non-smartphones, regulatory hurdles have proven to be insurmountable. The tech giant known for its mobile based browser had investment in the Kenyan market more than $11.81 million in provision of free data as of 2023 alone showing its commitment to addressing the challenges of expensive internet access in the region.

Therefore, it’s decision to suspend the free data offering here in Kenya is expected to affect millions of users as well as raise questions about the future of internet accessibility in the country. Currently, even with improved internet speeds as we saw from the recent speed report from French firm nPerf, internet costs are still steep averaging about $6.44 per GB in sub-Saharan Africa, initiatives like Opera’s free data plan played a crucial role in making online services more accessible to the masses.


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