South Africa, 27 February 2018: New demand-side research undertaken in 16 countries in the Global South, shows vast variances in Internet penetration between and within regions, with the majority of people in many countries having not heard of the Internet or do not knowing how to use it.
Two-thirds of the population in Bangladesh has never heard of the Internet, while the reason for 52 percent of those who do not use the Internet in Peru is that they do not know how to use it. In many African countries, Internet remains below the 20 to 30 percent believed to be the critical mass associated with economic growth and development gains.
The #AfterAccess survey conducted over 28 000, 90-minute household and individual face-to-face interviews in Asia, Africa and Latin America from April 2017 to February 2018. The nationally-representative research was undertaken by and DIRSI (Latin America), LIRNEAsia (Asia) and Research ICT Africa (Africa)
Speaking from the Mobile World Congress 2018 in Barcelona this week, Alison Gillwald, executive director of Research ICT Africa, says the findings strongly expose the fact that global ‘one-size-fits-all’ so called best practices are inherently problematic.
“What is clear is that current Internet and mobile broadband models that have driven the Internet take-up seen in the past few years, even if effectively regulated to deliver cost-based services will not be affordable for significant numbers of people, to use optimally – the bulk of whom earn far below the GNI per capita figures used for affordability targets used to assess and compare affordability in global indices and targets.”
There are also enormous variances within the global south with large parts of Latin America and South Africa for example in Africa, showing characteristics of Internet adoption more similar to more mature economies.
In South Africa more women own mobile phones than men, and there are no significant differences between men and women in relation to Internet take up, whereas in the less developed economies such as Rwanda, which has the lowest Internet penetration of the African countries surveyed, the disparity between men and women is greatest.
Like mobile phone ownership did for voice, mobile broadband is driving Internet take up in the global south with the vast majority of people across Africa, Asia and Latin America accessing the Internet for the first time with their mobile devices.
Driven by social networking, access to the Internet remains very limited, across most of the African and Asian countries surveyed, with only 18.7 percent of Indians and 30.2 percent of Nigerians, the two biggest economies in Asia and Africa, online.
Urban users were also found to far outstrip rural users in all three regions. Even if there is mobile broadband coverage, people are not necessarily coming online. “In all three regions, respondents cited the cost of devices as inhibiting people accessing the Internet and the cost of services as limiting the always on use of the Internet that characterises Global North use. Relevant local content is also a factor for people not getting online in all three regions and in Africa and Asia people struggle with the absence of electricity to charge their devices though in many part of several countries mobile phone coverage remains a barrier.”
“Addressing digital inequality will require completely new ways of thinking about licensing, regulating, assigning spectrum and universal service obligations that have done so little to bring the poor online and devise new enabling, innovative, complementary and adaptive systems of governance and business that are able not only to deal with the complexity of the dynamic information ecosystem, but harness it for the citizens in developing countries,” says Gillwald.
The #AfterAccess research was funded by the International Development Research Centre with the goal of uncovering the full Internet story across developing continents – a story that goes far beyond connectivity. The ongoing research will assemble a crucial body of evidence to inform ICT policy at a global and regional level.”
Download the first #AfterAccess report entitled The Inside Internet Story of Africa, Asia and Latin America here.