The Impact of Internet and Social Media on Communications in Africa a Feature Phone User Research Survey

Telecoms and Internet Reports

Document type: Report
Availability: Available
Publication date: 29 August 2014
Number of pages: 65

Price: Free

3. Feature Phone User Survey

A. Feature Phone User Research Survey – Report Structure and Methodology

There are two parts to this report. Firstly, there is a comparative section looking at the differences in responses between countries in some detail. Secondly, there are individual country sections.


In 2013 a mobile survey was designed and fielded by On Device Research to understand the African Media landscape in 5 countries – Ghana, Nigeria Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa.

For each market, quotas were set on age and gender in an attempt to ensure that the data was representative of 16 to 34 year olds in each country. For each market, the following final sample sizes were achieved: n = 1000 in Ghana, Nigeria and Ethiopia. N = 1500 in Kenya and South Africa. While all efforts were made to reach the agreed quotas in Ethiopia, it was the one market in which the quota was not completely met. As a result the gender skew is 66% male and 34% female

Respondents were interviewed via their mobile phones. As a reward for completing the survey, respondents were placed into a prize draw with the chance to win US$50. For this project, On Device Research used its Mobile Publisher Network Partners, with whom it has exclusivity and IP agreements in place.

It uses these partners by tapping into their traffic and placing recruitment banner ads. Respondents come across the recruitment banner while browsing the mobile web in their normal way. If they are interested in taking part in the survey, they simply click on the recruitment banner. They are then automatically routed to the survey start screen and welcome message, which explains the scope of the project. If they are still interested in taking part, they simply click the start button, and they start the survey. If not, they close the page and continue with their browsing.


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B. Overall Summary of Feature Phone Research Responses

Feature phone user surveys were carried out in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. What feature phones are and the rationale for researching their users is described in the Introduction below. The key responses from interviewees can be summarized as follows:

Feature Phone users are more likely to use the Internet for news and information: Feature phone users are significantly more likely to use the Internet almost as much radio and TV for news and information. This is not
an either/or set of choices but the Internet is part of the range of media they use. Internet is in second position in Nigeria, third position in Ethiopia and Kenya; fourth position in Ghana and fifth position in South Africa. This is behind TV, radio and sometimes friends and family. Social media was used by around two-thirds of respondents or slightly less in all countries except Ethiopia. A quarter to a third of all respondents obtained information using the Internet from NGOs.

Feature Phone users share computers with other: Ownership of computers is not the sole metric to watch for this group of users. A third or more of feature phone users shared access to a laptop or desktop computer.


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Want to get devices that connect to the Internet and better Internet: The top 3 things respondents said they were most likely to buy, upgrade to or hire in next 12 months were: a better phone (a smartphone on the basis of functionalities they want), a laptop and a better Internet connection. Tablets were particularly attractive to respondents in Ghana and South Africa:

Facebook is an entirely new media - Discuss: Two thirds to three-quarters
of respondents across all countries used social media regularly to get news; information for work and information for the home. On the basis of use more than once a day, Facebook dominates social media use. Facebook is also being widely accessed using SMS on more basic phones. The exceptions are Google+ in Ghana (38%), Google+ in Kenya (39%), 2Go (49%) and Google + (43%) in Nigeria and Google+ (54%) and MXit (33%) in South Africa.

Disconnects between getting information and using it: Information received about the health issues covered varied widely depending on the country. The Nigerian respondents were least likely to have received information on these topics recently. There were considerable variations between those receiving information and those responding that they had used the information. The South African respondents were more likely to have received information than to have used it. With the exception of information on clean water in Nigeria, respondents were least likely to have received information on these topics recently. The absence of information on polio is echoed in the qualitative research countries.


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C. Introduction
Why survey feature phone users? – A rationale

Sub-Saharan Africa’s mobile phone users are split between 3 broad categories of handset use:

Source: Balancing Act

Smartphones, feature phones and basic phones. These segments have been represented in pyramid form (not to scale) above along with tablet devices based on percentage levels of ownership. The current and future ownership levels and price range for devices are shown.

A smartphone is a mobile phone that is able to perform many of the functions of a computer, typically having a relatively large screen (often a touch screen) and an operating system capable of running general-purpose applications. A feature phone is one that that incorporates features such as the ability to access the Internet and store and play music but lacks the advanced functionality of a smartphone. A basic phone generally has two main capabilities: voice and SMS.

The line between smartphone and feature phone capabilities is already becoming blurred with there being almost no functional difference between low cost smartphones and high-end feature phones. Increasingly manufacturers like Nokia, which dominates the basic handset market in many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, is focusing on phones that have data connections even at the most basic level.

Based on most analyst predictions, both the smartphone and feature phone segments of the market will increase over the next 3-5 years. But whereas smartphones will be largely in the hands of relatively wealthy Africans, the price of feature phones means that they will become used by a much wider range of people than smartphones.


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The choice of researching feature phone users was not made on the basis that
we think they are the only handset category that’s interesting for media and communications. Any NGO needs to look at all three categories and match them to their intended audiences.

But for research purposes we chose to select feature phone users between the age of 16-34 with a representative male/female split1 because they are a group of young people that are considerable in number and their media choices and use of the technology should be interesting to any NGO thinking of how it communicates in Sub-Saharan Africa.

As a group of users, they are on the cusp of the changes that are happening in Sub-Saharan Africa in terms of both media and technology. They represent a large segment of people who lack the money to use all of the technologies they are familiar with but who through sharing are already making use of many of them.

Five countries - Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa – were chosen based partly on where BMG funds organisations and programmes. The other reason for choosing these countries was they represent a range of wealth levels from South Africa at the top to Ethiopia at the bottom. But all of these countries are at the top end of the country wealth spread in Sub-Saharan African.

We are not arguing that the wealth levels of these countries makes them representative of the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa but again they are countries that are on the threshold of major changes and therefore will help us more readily understand some of these changes that will happen. Where these countries go in terms of media and technology habits, others in Sub-Saharan Africa will follow at a greater or lesser pace: they allow us to look at and think about the road ahead in other countries.

Respondents were asked whether their opinions influenced friends and family, their work colleagues and beyond these two categories. The self-defined “opinion formers”, whose opinions influenced beyond family, friends and work colleagues were between 7-17% depending on the country. In terms of occupation, 4-8% worked in health and 10-24% teaching others. Again both of these factors make feature phone users a key group for NGOs wishing to communicate.

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