Internet Development in Ethiopia: High-Level Findings from the After Access Survey

The Ethiopian Government seeks to leverage digital technologies for social and economic development and job creation. This paper assesses the outcomes of Ethiopia’s intensive digital policy reforms of the past decade, which strive to meet the objectives set out in A Homegrown Economic Reform Agenda, Ten Years Development Plan (2021-2030) and Digital Ethiopia 2025. As the only in-depth nationally representative demand-side evidence base for policymakers, the paper offers specific points of digital policy intervention to improve progress towards Ethiopia’s digital vision and more generally, the achievement of the ICT targets of the Sustainable Development Goals. 

The latest Africa After Access survey undertaken by Research ICT Africa indicates that Internet access in Ethiopia has grown from 3% in 2012 to 16% in 2022. This remains one of the lowest Internet penetration rates on the continent – still several points below the 20% critical mass necessary to enjoy the network effects associated with economic growth and development. While the telecommunications sector is the fastest growing service sector in Ethiopia, boosted by the liberalisation of the telecommunications market in 2018, this sector is hampered by poor Internet access capability. Under these conditions, the country’s vision of Digital Ethiopia 2025, only two years away, will not be realised and the ICT drivers of the Sustainable Development Goals will remain elusive. 

This is no longer a supply-side issue. The coverage of mobile networks has increased in recent years in terms of access to voice services, with over 98% of the population having access to 3G networks. High-speed 4G coverage is still low, however, with only a third of the population (33%) covered in 2023. Fixed broadband had 618 300 subscribers in 2023, a penetration rate of less than 1% of the population.

Despite nearly 100% 3G broadband coverage, access is highly unequal. There is a significant gap in access between men and women, literate and illiterate, urban and rural, and rich and poor. Women and rural dwellers are the most marginalised from acquiring meaningful access. Modelling of the survey data reveals that education and income determine access to the Internet. Only a very small elite have access to the Internet.

Suggested citation:  Adam L, E Alemneh, Omar N and Partridge A (2024) African After Access 2023 Ethiopia, Post the Pandemic Policy Paper Series, Policy Paper 3, Research ICT Africa, Cape Town.