Internet Use Barriers and User Strategies: Perspectives from Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Rwanda

Affordability is cited as one of the biggest challenges to Internet uptake and use. Some service providers and users of over-the top (OTT) platforms and applications have devised strategies that allow the OTT services to be used as communication substitutes for traditional voice and SMS services over mobile devices. The OTT services have become the main entry point to the Internet for most users in the prepaid mobile environment that characterises most African markets. The report highlights the relationship that Internet access and use have with the social and economic context of both users and non-users. By reviewing the findings based on geographical location, gender and the extent of Internet use, similarities as well as differences in the comparative countries can be identified. The Internet is an important means of communicating and finding information on various platforms whether social media, email or search engines. In an environment where voice and SMS tariffs are more expensive in comparison with similar data offerings across all regions and regardless of location, the Internet is perceived as an easier and cheaper alternative. This study serves to nuance the quantitative evidence used for policymaking. To this end, the report indicates that subsidised data does not limit the extent of Internet use, but rather that the extent of Internet use needs to be understood in relation to several contextual factors. Internet users make use of subsidised data to manage their data costs together with other tactics. Reducing the cost of data and providing affordable services should remain a policy solution to low Internet use. However, this should be done to improve infrastructural policy solutions, such as the release of spectrum and the promotion of community-based initiatives addressing rural connectivity where users often have little choice among services providers.