Understanding Internet going Mobile: Internet Access and Use in Eleven African countries

While the 2007/08 African ICT access and use survey demonstrated alarmingly little access to the Internet on the continent, together with a large-scale absence of computers and smart phones, compounded by the high cost of connectivity, the mobile phone is now the key entry point for Internet use. Internet access has grown significantly, increasing Internet penetration to 15.5 per cent across the ten African countries surveyed on household and individual ICT access and use by Research ICT Africa in 2011/12. Mobile Internet requires fewer ICT skills and financial resources, and does not rely on electricity at home, compared to computer or laptop and fixed-Internet access, in general. Other findings highlight the unevenness of Internet take-up across and within countries. So, while the majority of the countries under investigation demonstrate increased mobile Internet take-up, in Rwanda, Tanzania and Ethiopia, Internet use remains negligible. South Africa had the highest Internet penetration rate, with nearly 34 per cent of the population who are 15 years or older using the Internet. This policy paper concludes by raising significant policy questions on how the Internet is used and accessed. It highlights the importance of demand stimulation, such as reducing the price of services and devices, developing e-literacy and skills and relevant content, as much as supply-side measures, which traditionally have focused on infrastructure expansion only.