Does Lack of local content hinder Internet Adoption?

Sub-Saharan Africa has seen great improvements in connectivity infrastructure, with increasing investment in access infrastructure including mobile internet networks and fibre backbones. While this is a step in the right direction, the adoption of technologies such as 3G and 4G is lagging behind, raising the question of why it’s taking so long for Africa to get online.

Although agriculture and natural resources which have proved workable in Africa will continue to be important drivers of Africa’s economic growth in 2011, it is the application of modern technologies that will have the most significant impact on the growth trajectories of most African economies.

Specifically, the greatest opportunity for growth is deemed come from technological innovation and the adoption of new technologies like internet services in sectors, such as banking, insurance, health, education and agriculture.

The Internet Society’s Global Internet Report notes that Africa has the lowest percentage of internet users in the world with only about only 28.6% of people online, compared to 44.2% in Asia, 73.9% in Europe and 89% in North America.

As much as we are seeing increase in access to the Internet, it is not sufficient for people to just get online. They need to find content that they can relate with in order for them to stay online.

There is a growing emphasis on providing content and services that people use when they are online, which in this case means having more local content. Much of the international content and services is relevant in many countries worldwide, which is true of what we see on social networking services, educational access, and entertainment. However, we are yet to embrace the importance of locally created content given the relevance of the content in the local context.

The availability of local content is a key demand-side driver for increasing Internet access for marginalized populations, and localized media can foster inclusion and support democratic institutions.

Looking at Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that anyone can edit, there are only 16 African language wikis that have more than 1000 pages, with the most popular being Malagasy Wikipedia, with over 81,000 articles as at January 2016. In comparison, the English Wikipedia alone has over 5 million articles of any length.

Most African Content providers and developers often choose to host content abroad in order to access lower cost hosting services. However, content hosted abroad must be transmitted back to the country over international Internet transit links which are still expensive in spite of significant infrastructure investments in recent years. The resulting high costs to access content hosted abroad are generally borne by ISPs.

For adoption and usage to grow, it is important that users have access to content that is locally relevant, but even relevant content may not be consumed if it is not quickly and cheaply accessible.

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