Mr Robert Yawe remembers purchasing his first phone in 1998 for Sh200,000. He had to get his credit rating vetted before he could purchase a post-paid phone plan and the calling rate was Sh50 per minute.
Mobile phone services had been launched six years prior in 1992. Handsets were extremely expensive, sometimes going for as much as Sh250,000.
Due to this, the sector had experienced growth at a snail’s pace. By 1999, there were 20,000 mobile phone subscriptions in the country.
“I bought a mobile phone because I was a technical person.
"Having a mobile number gave me an edge over my competitors when I went for projects. It was also a status symbol,” said Mr Yawe, a technology practitioner in Nairobi.
Two decades later, Kenya has come a long way. (CLICK HERE to see a timeline of the country's mobile phone revolution)
The highest tariffs stand Sh4 per minute. There are 29.2 million mobile subscriptions and the gadgets, genuine or otherwise, can be bought for as little as Sh500.
The country is also considered a regional hub for technological innovation.
Mr Yawe bought his phone on the cusp of legal reforms that would accelerate the mobile revolution in Kenya. In 1998, the Communications Act was passed.
It effectively liberalised the telecom sector in Kenya. Until then, the communication sector had been the monopoly of the Kenya Posts and the Telecommunications Corporation (KPTC), a body that regulated everything from telegrams to money orders
With the 1998 Communication Act, KPTC was split into the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), Telkom Kenya and the Postal Corporation of Kenya.
The new law also made allowances for private companies to step into the sector thereby setting the stage for a battle over Kenya’s subscribers.
Over the next few years, new players would make their entry into the market and mobile phone prices would be slashed drastically.
By March 2000 mobile subscribers jumped by more than 1,000 per cent. In 2005, Safaricom and Faulu Kenya begun experiments for a mobile money service that would revolutionise the country.
M-Pesa was launched in 2007 and within months had garnered a subscriber base of 900,000 users.
The service has since spawned an array of complimentary products and set off a rush among Kenya’s telecoms to dominate the mobile money market.
Although they were jittery at a first, banks have also jumped into the fray incorporating mobile money into traditional services.
M-Pesa raised Kenya’s profile in technological innovation and set the stage for a crop of young entrepreneurs developing products for mobile phone users.
In 2005, Bitange Ndemo took over as Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Information.
Mr Ndemo was at the fore front in pushing for Kenya to be linked to the rest of the world through undersea fibre-optic cables which in turn led to massive cuts in the price of internet access in Kenya.
Although the country is yet to achieve universal access, the availability of cheap internet connection has been associated with development and growth in technological innovation in the country.
“Mobile internet has been crucial to technological development in this country.
"It is also provides numerous opportunities for Kenyan businesses to reach their markets, opportunities that have thus far been underutilised,” said Google Kenya boss, Mr Joe Mucheru.
In March 2010, iHub, a creative space for mobile innovators, opened its doors in Nairobi.
Since then, a number of other creative labs and business incubation spaces have set up in the country catering to young pioneers who at the heart of what is been termed as Kenya’s Silicon Savannah.