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Notes from ‘Understanding Broadband Demand in Africa: Internet Going Mobile’

June 13, 2012  »  Broadband & MobileNo Comment

The data void for African ICT policy making and regulation just got smaller. Just days ago, Research ICT Africa published a new report, “Understanding Broadband demand in Africa: Internet going Mobile,” after using it in a presentation at a broadband video panel in Lusaka, Zambia. Research ICT Africa seeks to build an African evidence and knowledge base in support of ICT policy and regulatory processes. The group also strives to monitor and review policy and regulatory developments on the continent.

Statistics from the report include:

  • 20% of South African households have an Internet connection. Fewer than 1 percent do so in Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Ethiopia.
  • The majority of households in South Africa and Namibia use 3G to access the Internet. A fair amount (22%) still use ADSL in South Africa.
  • Reasons for not having a household Internet connection vary widely by nation. 77% of Tanzanians claim they cannot afford Internet at home. Only 28% of Ugandans feel the same way. Instead, the main reason for a lack of household Internet in Uganda is a lack of information on how to use it. In fact, Uganda leads the eight surveyed nations in this bucket.
  • Ethiopia by far had the least availability of household Internet access. 41% of respondents cited a lack of availability as the reason for not having a connection at home.
  • 87-99.5% of mobile owners have a pre-paid SIM card.
  • A minority of individuals in all countries have an Internet-enabled handset. In general, most of those who do actually use the phone to browse the Internet. Only 5% of Tanzanians use the mobile device for web browsing (identical to Ethiopia).
  • 2% of Ethiopians use their mobile phone to social network (vs. 24% of South Africans – most likely driven by MXit).
  • The share of people age 15+ using the Internet has roughly doubled since 2007 in South Africa, Namibia, and Ghana. The rate has tripled in Uganda and quadrupled in Ethiopia. However, Tanzania and Cameroon have expressed lower growth in this bucket.
  • Nearly half of Ethiopian Internet users have started to use the Internet in the past year. Interestingly, nearly half of Rwandans have been using the Internet for four years. South Africa, Ghana, Tanzania, and Cameroon all are in the 40% range having used the Internet five or more years ago.
  • Respondents in Cameroon were least likely to use the Internet every day or almost every day (19%).
  • In Uganda, 72% of Internet users first used the Internet on a mobile device. Conversely, 18% of Internet users in Cameroon did the same.
  • Cameroon is the only country surveyed where a greater share of people use a computer instead of a mobile device to browse the Internet.
  • Social networking tends to be the biggest factor driving mobile Internet usage.

Finally, the author recommends four action items:

  1. create conditions conducive to foreign direct investment (FDI)
  2. stimulate national demand
  3. assign and create appropriate spectrum to deliver m-services
  4. effectively regulate a competitive market

Note: Data in the aforementioned presentation are first round high level descriptive findings only and will be confirmed and developed over the next few months.