Why internet use is low in Africa

A Maasai and a teacher by profession

Speed read

  • Despite increased access to the internet, its use in Africa is generally low
  • A report attributes reasons such as lack of local content to this problem
  • An expert says the report could help create awareness of the issue

Send to a friend

The details you provide on this page will not be used to send unsolicited email, and will not be sold to a 3rd party. See privacy policy.

[NAIROBI] Despite recent improvements in infrastructure and affordability, internet adoption in Sub-Saharan Africa is not growing rapidly, a report says.
The report says that the continent’s internet adoption isn't growing at a speedy rate because potential users do not always find the internet relevant enough. According to Bastiaan Quast, co-author of the report and economics fellow of Internet Society, Africa faces challenges such as poor telecommunication systems in slums and the basic costs of accessing the internet.

“There is very little content in local languages.… We need more (professional) content to be generated locally,” Quast tells SciDev.Net last month (20 October).
The report by the US-headquartered Internet Society was released at the African Peering and Interconnection Forum that took place in Tanzania.

Likelihood of smartphone ownership.jpg


Almost 90 per cent of the population in some African countries live within range of a mobile internet signal, however internet use may be 20 per cent or less, thus prompting the need for the study to assess the reasons for low internet adoption.
“We used data from a number of sources. In some cases it includes all African countries,” Quast says, citing Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda as some of the countries the study explored.

“There is very little content in local languages…. We need more (professional) content to be generated locally.”

Bastiaan Quast, Internet Society

The study, he says, covered the period 2012-2016.
“We relied on sources such as the International Telecommunication Union and Research ICT Africa for our data,” he adds.
Millicent Ong'ondo, an internet expert who works at J.D. Rockefeller Research Library in Kenya’s Egerton University, agrees with the findings, saying most people in Africa do not conduct much research on internet issues that affect them. Thus, most people rely on what is readily available which is often not local.
 “Local content would play a role mostly in uptake, but not in connectivity,” Ong'ondo explains. “Connectivity is affected by other factors like cost, literacy level and education level, cost of [mobile] phones, cost of airtime and speed of connectivity.”

According to Ong'ondo, the report could create awareness, and make institutions attend to the needs of the users and increase sharing of local content on the internet.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.