Internet going mobile: Internet access and usage in eleven African countries
While the 2007/8 African ICT access and usage survey demonstrated alarmingly little access to the Internet on on the continent together with a large-scale absence of computers and smart phones and compounded by the high cost of connectivity, (Gillwald & Stork 2008), the mobile phone is now the key entry point for Internet usage.1 Internet access has increased significantly across all countries as a result increasing Internet penetration to 15,5% across the ten African countries surveyed on household and individual ICT access and usage by Research ICT Africa in 2011/12.2 Mobile internet requires less ICT skills, less financial resources and does not rely on electricity at home compared to computer or laptop and generally fixed-Internet access. 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 usage remains negligible. In those countries where mobile Internet is driving connectivity this is being driven by social networking applications. Understanding prepaid mobile Internet further provides a pro-poor dimension to public policies seeking improved Internet access and which was historically available and affordable to the elite, other than through public access points, whether private Internet cafes or schools and libraries, raising significant policy questions with which the paper concludes.
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