Ghana: New survey results uncover more complex patterns of mobile phone and Internet use

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This week market research company InterMedia launches AudienceScapes, a research web site funded by the Gates Foundation. It conducted two country surveys (Ghana and Kenya) in 2009 and of the two, the Ghana survey is probably the more interesting for News Update readers. Based on a robust national sample covering all regions of the country, it looks like there are just under a million Internet users. Furthermore, 3% of the mobile users in the sample accessed the Internet at least once a week. Russell Southwood went through the numbers.

The InterMedia survey was conducted in July and August 2009 and had 2,051 respondents based on a probability-proportional-to-size (PPS) plan. 56% of the sample was urban and 46% rural. Only 1% of the sample had a university degree or higher. The survey has been conducted before the arrival of four new international cables (Glo One, Main One, WACS and ACE) that will almost certainly bring both cheaper fixed and mobile Internet for household users.

Based on the total population in Ghana of 23.8 million in 2009, 4% of the sample had access to the Internet based on which there are around 952,000 people with access. 7% had access in urban areas and only 1% in rural areas. 80% of those using Internet in the sample were aged 15-29.

However, 10% of the overall sample had access to computers, over double the amount of people actually accessing the Internet, which implies that cost is a limiting factor. 18% of the sample in urban areas had access to a computer compared with 4% in rural areas. Interestingly, 8% of the overall sample had an MP3 player.

Price and available bandwidth are obviously constraining what Ghanaian Internet users can do and the majority still use it for things like e-mail and research. However, there are those using it several times a day/once day for the following (based on % of Internet users in the sample):

Watch/download videos 15%

Play games 14%

Visit social networking sites 15%

All of these uses are before there is really the bandwidth to make this a pleasurable experience or the cost of Internet to make it widely attractive.

Internet use on mobile phones is only a very small percentage of the sample but nonetheless significant because even small percentages of a large number (all mobile users) makes for a large actual number of users. 11% of the total sample had used radio via their mobile phone in the last week compared to only 1% accessing radio over fixed Internet.

Of the mobile users in the sample, they had done following at least once a week: 19% had listened to radio using their phone; 3% had accessed the Internet; and 1% had watched mobile TV.

The survey emphasises the point that mobile is a media. 16% of the sample had got news and information in the last week using SMS compared to 18% from newspapers. 24% of urban users used SMS in this way compared to 10% of rural users. Whereas traditional media (Radio: 89% and TV: 64%) and word of mouth (friends and family: 64% and other people in the community: 39%) remain dominant, SMS is steadily building itself into a media that might easily displace newspapers in the next 2-3 years. With increased amounts of smartphones and Internet use, this could pose a significant threat to African print media.

However, 44% of the sample did not use SMS, probably for reasons of literacy, functional or otherwise: 14% did not use it all and 30% said they did not use it easily.

But mobile companies beware! Users think that the services that they are using are expensive. 75% of the sample either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that “Having a mobile phone is expensive.”

InterMedia has launched its AudienceScapes site which can be found on the link below. Whilst aimed at the development sector, there is a great deal of useful information for anyone involved in communications in Africa:

The two surveys of Ghana and Kenya can be downloaded by clicking on the links below: