Low income takes 800m Nigerians, South Africans, others offline
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in a document entitled, ‘Digital trends in Africa 2021: Information and communication technology trends and developments in the Africa region 2017-2020,’ released at the weekend disclosed this. It attributed the gap in online in the region to the high cost of smartphones, relative to average income level, limited digital skills among rural and less literate population.
In Nigeria, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) had said there were some 114 access gaps, which housed some 20 million Nigerians still without basic telephony service.
Further, ITU also referred to the Alliance of Affordable Internet (A4AI), which identified lack of quality of access, which it has termed “meaningful connectivity”, as one key reason why people are not using the Internet in the region.
ITU estimated that 14.3 per cent of households in the African region had Internet access in 2019, compared with 57.4 per cent globally. The proportion of individuals using the Internet in 2019 totalled 28.6 per cent in Africa and 51.4 per cent globally, highlighting the need to bring more people to Africa online.
In terms of households with Internet access, the Africa region shows significant variation: while six countries, namely Mauritius, Cabo Verde, Botswana,Gambia, South Africa and Seychelles lead the region at estimated rates of home access above the world average of 57.4 per cent, most countries have very low home access rates of less than 20 per cent, with 14 countries having a rate of below 10 per cent.
The telecoms body data show that the percentage of individuals using the Internet greatly varies across the African region. In four countries, namely Mauritius, Cabo Verde, Seychelles, and South Africa, the proportion of individual Internet users (for the most recent year) was above the world average of 51.4 per cent. In most countries, individual Internet use is below 30 per cent.
Further, over the last four years, ITU said the region had seen continued, albeit slow growth in most areas of ICT infrastructure, access, and use. Mobile cellular coverage in Africa, referring to the percentage of the population that lives within reach of a mobile cellular signal, is estimated at 88.4 per cent. It said just over 77 per cent of the population is now within the reach of a 3G signal, and 44.3 per cent is within the reach of a long-term evolution (LTE) mobile broadband signal.
According to the global telecoms body, the percentage of individuals using the Internet increased from 24.8 per cent in 2017 to 28.6 per cent by the end of 2019, with households that have Internet access at home increasing by 0.1 percentage points from 14.2 per cent in 2017 to 14.3 per cent by the end of 2019.
ITU said both fixed and mobile broadband markets have shown some growth over the last four years, with active mobile broadband subscriptions outpacing fixed broadband subscriptions.
ITU said nevertheless, a very significant gender gap and a rural/urban divide persist.ITU said in 2019, only 20.2 per cent of women used the Internet, compared with 37.1 per cent of men. Moreover, only 6.3 per cent of rural households had access to the Internet in 2019, compared with 28 per cent of urban households.
The telecoms body said in the 15 to 24-year-old age group, 39.6 per cent used the Internet in 2019, which is higher than the regional average, yet significantly lower than the world average of 69 per cent.
In terms of mobile market developments, ITU said the African mobile market is very diverse, with mobile cellular subscriptions for over 100 per 100 inhabitants in 12 out of 44 countries, namely Seychelles, South Africa, Botswana, Mauritius, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Gabon, Ghana, Mali, Namibia, Senegal, Cape Verde, and Kenya.
It stressed that 20 countries have subscription rates per 100 inhabitants below the African average of 82.3, while 12 other countries have less than 50 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants. According to it, in most countries, mobile cellular subscription rates have increased between 2015-2019.
In terms of ICT infrastructure development and integrated technologies such as AI, IoT, and cloud computing, ITU observed that there is still ample room for development, which hinges on progress concerning Internet adoption through infrastructure, demand-driven expansion, and key reforms in the areas of data collection and data privacy, infrastructure, education, and governance.
According to it, a homegrown AI community is on the rise and has attracted international attention and investment. ITU informed that some successful AI deployments at scale are taking place in the areas of financial services, agriculture, and health care.
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