An Assessment of Mobile Internet Usage in a Rural Setting of a Developing Country

An Assessment of Mobile Internet Usage in a Rural Setting of a Developing Country

Emmanuel Eilu (School of Computing and Informatic Technology, Makerere University Kampala, Kampala, Uganda)
DOI: 10.4018/IJMCMC.2018040104


In sub-Saharan Africa, studies show that the key driver for mobile Internet use is social media. However, despite the global reach and proliferation of the Internet and mobile phones, research on mobile Internet use in rural communities in Sub-Saharan Africa is lacking. There is very little research on how rural communities in Sub-Saharan Africa use the Internet, yet a number of studies have shown that there are unique technological needs of rural communities. The purpose of this article is to explore and understand how marginalized rural people in a sub-Saharan African country like Uganda use the Internet, and the factors that limit the use of this technology. This research found out that sports websites accessed through mobile phones were a more substantial indicator of mobile Internet use in Arapai sub-county. This is contrary to what much of the literature presents that the reason for going online in Sub-Saharan Africa is to access social media networking sites. The research also found out that the most limiting factor for accessing the Internet was poor network connectivity.
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The mobile phones subscription growth rate in Sub-Saharan Africa still remains the highest in the world. In 2010, there was a 50 percent mobile phone penetration rate, and forecasts show that close to 100 percent penetration will be achieved in 2021 (Ericsson Mobility Report, 2016). As a result of the high mobile phones subscription, access to mobile Internet (also called mobile data) in Sub-Saharan Africa has been rising steadily as well, with a current penetration rate of around 35 percent (Ericsson Mobility Report, 2016). The key driver for Internet use, or for people to go online in the developing world is social media (Philbeck, 2017). In Sub-Saharan Africa in particular, studies have shown that most individuals who access the Internet on their mobile phones, aim at accessing social media, and social media therefore, has become the greatest boost for Internet use in Sub-Saharan Africa (Wyche et al. 2013). Household and Individual ICT Access and Use survey carried out in three African countries namely South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria indicated that accessing social media was the main reason why people bought and utilized mobile data (RIA, 2012). Similarly, another baseline study conducted in 2014 in the Western Cape Province in South Africa found that 48 percent of Internet users indicated that their main reason for going online was to access social media (Calandro, 2015).

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