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Survey: Internet Connectivity Builds Positive Impact on Life in Sub-Saharan Africa


In a new Pew Research Center analysis, Sub-Saharan Africa has experienced dramatic gains in internet use in recent years. With this rapid growth in connectivity have come a host of potential problems, including fake news, political targeting and manipulation and financial scams, among others. Yet according to the Pew Research Center analysis, most sub-Saharan Africans feel positively about the role the internet plays in their country. Large majorities say the increasing use of the internet has had a good influence on education in their country, and half or more say the same about the economy, personal relationships and politics.

Across six major nations surveyed in the region, a median of 45% say the internet has had a positive impact on morality, while 39% say it is has been negative. These views vary substantially by country. For example, a majority of Nigerians (57%) believe the internet is having a good influence on morality, while more than half of Senegalese (54%) say the opposite.

Still, in some countries, evaluations of how the internet affects morality have improved since 2014. In Ghana today, 42% think that growing internet use has a positive effect on morality – up from 29% in 2014. Favorable assessments of the internet’s impact on economics and politics have risen even more over the same time period. For example, in 2017, around two-thirds of Nigerians (64%) said the increasing use of the internet had a positive influence on their country’s politics, compared with just 43% in 2014.

he survey also finds that sub-Saharan Africans primarily use the internet and their mobile phones for social and entertainment purposes, though many also use their mobile devices for sending and receiving payments. Still, people are more likely to engage in nearly all activities – even basic ones like texting – if they have smartphones, suggesting the emergence of a new digital divide based on phone type. The survey also highlights long-standing digital divides along demographic lines: Higher-income, more-educated and younger people are consistently more likely to use the internet, own a smartphone and engage in social networking.

Internet use increases across sub-Saharan Africa; share with a smartphone doubles

Chart showing that sub-Saharan Africa lags behind wealthier regions in terms of internet use.

Globally, internet use is much more common in wealthier countries. The percentage of people who are online in each country is highly correlated with countries’ gross domestic product per capita (PPP). Regionally, internet use is lowest in sub-Saharan Africa, where a median of 41% across six countries use the internet. South Africa (59%) is the only country in the region where at least half the population is online.



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