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Chart: African Internet penetration versus urban population (2010)

November 23, 2011  »  StatisticsNo Comment

The rural nature of Africa poses challenges for bringing the Internet outside of urban areas. We thought it would be interesting to compare estimated Internet penetration rates with how urbanized a given country claims to be. Urban data comes from UNDESA’s International Human Development Indicators. Internet users can be found in the ITU World Telecommunication / ICT Indicators Database of free country data.

Internet penetration versus urban population (Africa)

Loosely speaking, the more urban an African nation, the greater the share of Internet users.

There is a large grouping of African nations with 35-40% urban populations and fewer than ten Internet users per 100 inhabitants. The median comes out to 39% urban with 6% Internet penetration rate. In general, urban-heavy African countries have a higher share of Internet users than rural neighbors.  Still, plenty of urban-inclined countries have a lower share of Internet users than mostly-rural countries. After all, many non-geographical factors contribute to whether Internet adoption runs high in particular nation. An urban nation with misguided ICT intentions can have the same level of Internet usage as a rural nation committed to infrastructure development.

  • Far right: Gabon is more than 85% urban, only has the Internet user rate of a national that is 30% urban.
  • Far left: Burundi has the smallest share of urban inhabitants at 11%. At the same time, very few members of the population are Internet users.
  • Top: Morocco has the highest number of Internet users per 100 inhabitants in Africa, but the 14tth most urban.
  • Second from left: Uganda is the second least urban nation (13%), but with 12.5% Internet penetration ranks at the level of an African nation that is 60% urban.

An even stronger correlation between Internet users and urban areas can be seen globally (R2 is three times greater). Also, not surprisingly, the average number of Internet users per 100 inhabitants and the share of urban dwellers are both higher than in Africa.

Internet penetration versus urban population (Global)

The correlation is more pronounced on a global scale. (R2 = 0.40)

A couple of caveats:

  • Urban population estimates are defined as the “de facto population living in areas classified as urban according to the criteria used by each area or country as of 1 July (2010)”
  • Internet users are “…either directly provided to the ITU by the country concerned or the ITU does the necessary research to obtain the data. For countries where Internet user surveys are not available, and where countries do not provide their own estimate, the ITU calculates estimates based on average multipliers for the number of Internet users per subscriber.”