Africa's journey into the age of the knowledge economy and telephonic communication has, until recently, been a laborious and slow process, all the while the rest of the world's usage has only but boomed.
Inept government-owned telecommunication monopolies and inadequate fixed-line infrastructure has forced most African countries to rely solely on expensive, limited bandwidth satellite for internet connectivity.
All the while, it isn't alarming that the overall African population statistic still sits at a 63% illiteracy rate, amounting to an approximate 200 million people, but global online usage patterns have depicted that the vast majority of users fall in the youthful demographic, being under the age of 19 years. How is it then that Africa is assumed to be so different in the way its inhabitants consume the internet?
The simple answer is - they aren't.Access to the internet
It is reported that 11.4% of Africa's population has access to the internet, which would constitute about 5.7% of the global online sum total; and that across the African continent, between 30-70% of those accessing the internet are doing so via their mobile phones.
Opera Software says that Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt, and Kenya (in that particular order) are the four of the top 20 countries who are using its popular Opera Mini Browser to access the mobile web.
The need for information sharing and networking has exploded, and the consumption of WAP enabled phones is rising. These devices are becoming more and more accessible and affordable to the man on the street.
Africans are said to be buying mobile phones at a world record rate. To date there are on average a reported 60 mobile subscriptions for every 100 people in the world.A need for information sharing
In this same same breath, it might be safe to say that search and social networking platforms are illustrating the need for information sharing and simultaneously changing the face of online behaviour, as online news sites now receive more viewership than actual newspaper sales across the globe.
According to Erik Qualman, the author of the number one bestselling book, Socialnomics
, if Facebook were a country, it would be the third biggest in the world after India and China by population count. Its not surprising to discover that Facebook's subsequent social reach is reported to have narrowed the gap of the proverbial six degrees of separation to a mere four degrees.
Now we must take a step back and ask ourselves...if all this information we have gathered is directly contradictory to the previously supposed "information illiterate" population of Africa, then how do they constitute the single largest emerging mobile and internet savvy market on the globe?