Will Africa waste precious bandwidth on adult sites?
Never before in the history of telecommunications media in the United States has so much indecent (and obscene) material been so easily accessible by so many minors in so many American homes with so few restrictions.” – U.S. Department of Justice, Post Hearing Memorandum of Points and Authorities, at l, ACLU v. Reno, 929 F. Supp. 824 (1996).
No one wants the same to be said about Africa, but unfortunately, with increased bandwidth come increased opportunities to view explicit video online. There is nothing necessarily evil about online pornography viewed by adults in a responsible manner. Although up-to-date statistics are hard to find, it is common knowledge that adult websites are extremely popular, especially among the 18-34 male crowd. In fact, a few years ago comScore estimated that 70% of online men view pornographic sites on at least a monthly basis. According to Alexa, the most popular pornographic sites individually attract anywhere from 0.07% to 0.14% of all web pageviews. Currently, (at least according to the one source I can find) popular adult-themed websites are not as popular in Africa as they are in the United States. It could be that African web traffic to adult sites is more distributed than in the United States where traffic could be concentrated on the larger properties. To some degree, this conjecture is true. After all, only four of the 100 most visited web properties from U.S. traffic are pornographic. However, the idea here is to look at relative rather than absolute trends. The following table shows the rank of the most popular adult sites in African countries where data is available.
Add up all of the explicit material on the Internet and you have:
- a booming industry which pays tax dollars to the respective governments
- a waste of bandwidth and electricity to serve up all of these pages
- a global online population with time on their hands (no pun intended)
- an example of how the Internet is a form of entertainment
Although cultural values and beliefs vary, the temptation of pornography as business, leisure, or even out of curiosity is difficult to overcome. Still, regardless of your opinion on the matter, online pornography uses bandwidth – bandwidth that most nations do not have to spare. E-learning and ICT skills training should be higher in the bandwidth hierarchy than self-gratification. Would African Internet users notice an increase in transfer speed if no one viewed online pornography? It’s an interesting question, but more meaningful questions exist:
- are Africans attempting to view adult videos online or are they simply interested in other activities such as social networking or accessing the news?
- do the same percentage of African online users visit adult sites as Americans, but view fewer pages due to limited bandwidth?
- do community access points and/or cyber cafés prevent people from viewing pornography
The take-away message should be that Africa’s Internet usage habits are unique. Africans have not gravitated to pornographic websites like users in other nations did in the early days of web access. In the meantime, this is good considering Africa’s limited bandwidth can be put to better use than self-gratification. Of course, this is not to say that anyone should dictate what types of websites Africans visit. Freedom is what makes the Internet so appealing and successful. Still, Africa should implement web filtration software to keep children and public computers safe from questionable material, as it is sure to turn up more frequently as broadband (fixed-line or mobile) takes hold. Viewing adult content in private is a benefit of the Internet that perhaps makes life more enjoyable, but it should not interfere with the lives of others.