01 September 2017
| Natalie Bannerman
New research findings reveal that there are a number of barriers preventing residents from accessing the internet in the countries of Rwanda, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.
It is estimated that only 25% of the African population has
access to the internet and the key focus of this research is to
find out how people in urban and rural locations of the country
use the internet.
The results showed that subsidised did not greatly increase
the number of new users going online. Use of zero rating varied
across the four countries, In Nigeria awareness of the product
was low and is met with high scepticism, in Rwanda unlimited
WhatsApp and Facebook bundles were very popular and in Kenya
and South Africa zero rated services were welcomed more
modestly, but is appreciated for its cost reducing
It reported that poor network coverage and quality, slowed
the consumption of subsidised data particularly in areas of
Rwanda, Kenya and South Africa were many said that telecos with
those offerings do not have coverage in their area.
Women were said to face additional barriers to internet use
such as risk of exposure to inappropriate content and the
effects it could have on their personal relationships and
"Our research reveals that a significant urban-rural divide
remains in opportunities to access the internet. Too often the
debate over zero rating glosses over the fact that many people
in rural communities don’t even have access to the
best subsidized offerings and have to spend largely
disproportionate amounts of their already low income on mobile
access, and that’s assuming they can even find
electricity to charge their devices," said Alison Gillwald,
executive director of research at ICT Africa.
In addition, many rural users in Nigeria view the internet
as their way to access the civilized world and the way to
connect with friends and family around the globe.
In Kenya, respondents said that the price of data bundles
and internet-enabled phones prohibit them from doing what want
to do online. Ways around high costs include working late into
the night before reward bundle periods expire, visiting friends
who have Wi-Fi at home and using multiple promotions from
While in Rwanda, the report identified significant access
barriers in remote areas. Including the cost of data as well as
illiteracy and lack of understanding of foreign languages to
manipulate devices and understand internet content.
"Given all the controversy around zero rating,
it’s surprising to see how few research
respondents in these African countries actually use or depend
on zero rated data. We are, however, seeing a lot of interest
in Equal Rating compliant models which provide access to all of
the internet, not just some parts of it. More must be done to
connect the unconnected. This research makes clear that
it’s critical we all focus more on barriers like
healthy competition outside urban areas, electricity, digital
literacy, and gender power relations," said Jochai Ben-Avie,
senior global policy manager at Mozilla.