Tanzania: New survey highlights steady growth of mobile as media

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Intermedia has released the latest in its Audiencescapes series of surveys of media use in African countries. The survey covers Tanzania and contains a number of tantalizing clues as to how that country’s consumers are making use of different media. Russell Southwood picks over the findings for clues as to how things will develop in the future.

 The Audiencescapes survey of Tanzania was carried out in July 2010 and is a nationally representative sample, allowing the researchers to provide accurate breakdowns of urban vs rural use.

Internet use has clearly grown in Tanzania but not at the same rate as in neighbouring Kenya. The table below shows percentage household access amongst those surveyed:

Media            All sample        Urban        Rural
Radio              85%                85%           84%
TV                  27%                59%           14%
Computer          3%                 8%             1%
Internet            4%                 8%              2%
Mobile phone   62%                82%           54%

Television access is 71% in Dar es Salaam. The figure of 4% sounds small but if you translate that into people, there are around 1.5 million people who have household access to Internet.

Mobiles are increasingly becoming a media in their own right and in urban areas, their penetration levels are as high as for radio which the universal African media. And as the table below shows, Tanzanians (like many Africans) are using their phone’s built in radio and in small numbers, watching what they describe as live TV (probably streamed via You Tube). Radio listening on mobiles is highest amongst those under 34:

Activity         All sample        Urban        Rural
Radio               13%              18%          10%
Send SMS         61%             68%          57%
Watch live TV      1%               3%           1%

Mobile TV has yet to find the right business model and where it is offered as a service, has only acquired tens of thousands of subscribers. Furthermore the DStv version requires a special DVB-H handset and these are expensive and not many are on the market. Nevertheless, if relatively slow tech-adopters like Tanzanians are already watching live streams, there’s going to be a market out there. What else can you do when you’re sitting in Africa’s ubiquitous urban traffic jams and can’t get home for a live TV programme?

Internet use in Africa used to be about a limited number of internet search activities and sending e-mail but as the table below shows, Tanzanians are now doing a much wider range of things:

Activity                % of sample using Internet
Send or receive e-mails        57%
Latest news                         51%
Research topics                    32%
Social networking site           41%
Listen to radio                        7%
Play games                          13%

The figures reflect the rise and rise of Facebook use in the early adapter markets across the continent but it’s worth noting that Tanzania’s Facebook user numbers are significantly lower than those in neighbouring Kenya. Again, there is a significant percentage of Internet users who are choosing to listen to radio over their Internet connection.

If you look at media use on a once a week basis, to some greater or lesser extent, it reflects the overall household access figures above:

Media            % of total sample
Radio            91%
TV                41%
Newspaper    22%
Mobile           62%
Internet        3%

But when those sampled, were asked what were the important sources of news and information on a weekly basis, the results look rather different:

Source            % of total sample
Radio                  83%
TV                      41%
Newspapers        21%
SMS text            35%
Internet               4%

In other words, mobile is a news and information media with greater reach than newspapers and this is particularly true amongst lower income groups and those in rural areas. The position of newspapers is also threatened by Internet access: 4% vs 21% is a rather uneven fight but amongst the top income tier (who are among the key purchasers of newspapers) the percentage using the Internet is 17%. Interestingly, when those surveyed were asked about trustworthiness of different sources, they rated SMS and newspapers more or less equally.

So what do these results tell us? Tanzania is not one of the continent’s early tech adopters so it is perhaps more representative of the middle range of countries. Nevertheless, it has a sizeable and growing economy. Therefore it is possible to draw some of the following conclusions:

*    There is a steady build up of Internet use towards a “critical mass”, something much encouraged by the use of mobile Internet. It’s not a case of if it will grow further but when. On the basis of these figures, it is not hard to see Internet use going up to 7-10% in the next two years, particularly as prices to consumers continue to fall.

*    Mobile is a media that is rapidly establishing its position with both SMS and Internet. In two years time, 20-40% of users may have either smartphones or feature rich phones. But there is no sign yet that mobile operators have grasped the significance of this shift and started to work with key content partners to create specific local (in Swahili) products.

*    The same point can be made about delivering radio and TV to mobile users. Operators can either stream their own output to users or work with local media providers to build an audience through the mobile channel. Why do this and the news content development suggested above? Because mobile will slowly become an advertising medium and because of its wider reach and better colour presentation, it will take these revenues from poorly printed, expensive to produce newspapers and bad radio channels.

InterMedia has 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 and technology in Africa:


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