Determinants of Internet Access and Use in Sub-saharan Africa

Determinants of Internet Access and Use in Sub-saharan Africa

L e Cameroon is connected to the Internet since April 1997. But it was from April 1999 that the Internet really began to spread in the country with the opening of a node in Douala. More than ten years later, according to a study by the Research ICT Africa network, 38.9% of Cameroonians know what the Internet is, but only 13% have already used it (Gillwald et al. , 2010). Compared with those of more economically advanced African countries such as South Africa (where we have 50.8% and 15% respectively) and Nigeria (where we have respectively 38.3% and 12.7%) these figures tend to reveal a certain “internauphily” of the Cameroonian population, relative to the whole of sub-Saharan Africa.

2Indeed, the overall level of access to Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in Cameroon has slightly improved over the last decade. This country saw its Internet penetration rate rise from 0.25% of the population to 4% from 2000 to 2010, while over the same period, the penetration rate of the mobile phone increased from 0.66% to 44.07%.

However, these performances remain relatively low and, despite the creation of a National Agency for Information and Communication Technologies since 2006, Cameroon has still not finalized its national ICT development policy. If the delay in the finalization of this strategic document can be associated with the existence of a certain leadership dispute between the various institutions involved (Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications.

National Agency for Information and Communication Technologies, Telecommunications Regulatory Agency) (Nana and Tankeu, 2007), it is not excluded that it also finds some foundations in the lack of data and studies reliable, able to inform relevant policies. Of course, with the SCAN ICT survey, the Information Society Initiative in Africa has enabled Cameroon to collect various useful information in this regard. This information provides a good overview of the ICT situation in Cameroon in 2005/2006, particularly with regard to infrastructure, the market structure of the different services, the ICT penetration rate and to a lesser extent their utilization rates.

However, with a view to developing a national strategy for the development of As a sufficiently effective ICT, this survey needs to be complimented not only by more detailed descriptive studies on the main uses of ICT in Cameroon, but also by some more explanatory studies on the determinants of access, adoption and uses of ICTs. these ICTs.

3In the literature, such studies federate around the concept of the digital divide that refers to inequalities both in access to information and communication technologies (fracture level one) and in their uses (level two fracture). ). The digital divide thus appears to be a multi-dimensional problem (Methamem, 2004). Kling (1998) attributes two aspects to it: a technical aspect that refers to the availability of infrastructure, hardware, and software; a social aspect referring to the skills required to manipulate all these technical resources.

In a more comparative perspective, according to Norris (2001), the digital divide describes a global divide that reveals different capacities between industrialized and developing nations, a social divide that refers to inequalities in a given population and a democratic divide. For its part, Keniston (2003) distinguishes four obvious social categories of these fractures: those who are rich and powerful and those who are not; those who speak English and those who do not speak it; those who live in areas where technology is well established and those who do not live there; and finally, those who are technically knowledgeable and those who are not.

There is less work on Africa, but Oyelaran-Oyeyinka and Lal (2005) show that the rate of Internet use in sub-Saharan African countries is increasing with the density of computers in the country, the density of fixed lines and the number of web hosts. Another more recent study of Penardet al. (2012), focusing on Gabon, compares the determinants of mobile phone use and the Internet in this African country and finds that they are not identical.

4 Our study is an extension of this work, focusing on empirically assessing the determinants of the various dimensions of the digital divide in the Cameroonian population. Specifically, it aims to answer two questions: one relating to the factors that favor or otherwise hinder access to the Internet in Cameroon; the other relating to the factors that favor or, on the contrary, hinder the use of the Internet in this country.

5 To deal with these questions, we have a database based on a survey conducted in 2008 on a sample of 2,650 people in the Cameroonian cities of Douala, Buea, and Limbe. It contains previous information provided by the inhabitants of these cities who were interviewed about: their individual characteristics; the characteristics of their households of residence; their social environment; their equipment in Information and Communication Technologies and their use of ICT, especially the Internet.

The main interest of this database is to be able to allow us to highlight the factors sought. To do this, we use econometric models of discrete choices. The empirical approach adopted in this study begins by retaining a simple basic model whose only explanatory variables are socio-economic and linguistic variables, a model that is then progressively enriched by the integration of lifestyle variables and computer skills.

6 The entire article is organized around four parts. The first briefly describes the study database. The second presents the econometric modeling chosen as a methodology for identifying the determinants sought for Internet access fractures and its uses. This second part is also the place of discussion of the expected effects of the explanatory variables of the different models. The third presents the results of the estimates and the analyzes. The fourth part concludes the study by highlighting its main lessons for an ICT development policy.

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