Mobile phone users across Africa are increasingly accessing data services. In Kenya, 99% of Internet users are accessing Internet through their mobile phones (CCK, Sector Statistics Report Q4 2011 – 2012). Nevertheless, a significant portion of African mobile phone owners are still not using mobile Internet on their handsets. While there is great potential to increase access in Africa through mobile phones, research around user perceptions and usage of mobile Internet, especially questions of pricing is still lacking. Better understanding of how African users think of mobile Internet can help organizations such as Google to develop better solutions to increase access to data services.
Between February and August, iHub Research worked with Google to design and implement field studies in Kenya and Ghana. Today, we are releasing summaries of these field studies. In addition to speed and cost, transparency around pricing and usage emerged as a potential lever for improving mobile Internet adoption in Africa.
Some key insights from the Kenya study were:
- Few of the participants share phones; however, multiple phone use is significant.
- Service cost is a material factor; however, it does not appear to be the largest barrier for mobile Internet adoption for participants.
- Understanding of mobile Internet cost may be inversely correlated with usage.
- However, improved information about mobile data costs may increase usage.
The Ghana study found that:
- Mobile data users spend more money to make calls and send SMS messages than to use mobile Internet.
- Users use pay-as-you-go even though they believe that bundles are cheaper.
- Users and non-users do not have an accurate understanding of mobile Internet costs and many believe they are billed by time.
- Fewer users monitor mobile Internet spend, compared to voice/SMS balances.
- Improved transparency into mobile Internet spending might convert non-users.
- Users and non-users would be motivated to use mobile Internet at lower prices.
- Speed and cost are major challenges for mobile Internet users.
The full executive summaries are available at the following links: