After Access 2018: A Demand-side View of Mobile Internet from 10 African Countries

Information communication technology (ICT), and particularly broadband technologies, have been identified as critical drivers of social and economic growth and development. Smartphones, in particular, have revolutionised the telecommunications industry by becoming the principal means of Internet connectivity. Of all 10 African countries surveyed, only in South Africa is more than half the population online. The Internet penetration rate in Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Nigeria and Senegal is above the 20% threshold – but even this requires further investigation in a developing country context, where the unaffordability of data means that usage is generally very low and most people are using services passively, not in the high-speed, always-on environment where studies of causality in relation to penetration and economic growth have been done. Evidence from the 2017 Research ICT Africa (RIA) After Access Survey, a nationally representative survey conducted in 10 African countries – Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda – shows that supply-side issues such as ICT infrastructure development and coverage do not necessarily ensure digital beneficiation, but demand-side factors such as digital skills, education and affordability are equally critical elements to ensure a sustainable and a welfare-enhancing ICT sector. Despite ICTs having been identified as catalysts of economic growth and social cohesion, the nationally representative Access Survey of 20 countries in the Global South After Access Survey shows that ICTs amplify the existing social and economic inequalities. Large economies and fairly wealthy and educated individuals are more likely to benefit from the digital economy than the poor.