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Africa's Internet Condition

Africa's Internet Condition

While Africa’s growth in mobile and internet access has been rising faster over the last decade than any other region of the world, the continent is still playing catch-up. It still has the lowest percentage of population accessing the internet. Africa's Internet use is still low.

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.

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.

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.

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