After Access: Youth, Deprivation and the Internet in Africa

Chenai Chair · Ariane De Lannoy
Series 5: After Access-Assessing digital inequality in Africa
Policy Paper No. 4: Youth, Deprivation and the Internet in Africa

Research ICT Africa sought to understand the way in which young people make use of the internet within particular contexts as part of the After Access research series.The arising policy question was: What are the best approaches to ensuring that internet access and use benefits youth within a context of poverty?

The study investigates – from young people’s own perspective – whether the Internet could be used to address the various issues they face, thus allowing us to formulate a range of suggestions for policy intervention.

The study focuses on youth in Tanzania, Nigeria and Rwanda drawing on the After-Access survey data and focus group discussions in all three countries. Because youth demonstrate very different characteristics across this age spectrum, the focus groups were disaggregated into teens (15-19) and young adults (20-24), by location-urban and rural and sex-male and female.

  • Each of the countries face significant challenges with levels of education and with youth unemployment. Much lower numbers of youth aged 20 to 24 reported being a student, with only just under 11% of youth in Rwanda and Tanzania and just under 28% in Nigeria.Unemployment was experienced by most young people, regardless of educational background.
  • The internet is used to create new economic opportunities but mainly among those with an entrepreneurial activity already taking place. There is an awareness that the internet on its own will not address all their challenges.
  • There are factors such as cost, network service, access to devices, language and low skills levels that limit young people’s experiences to optimally make use of the internet to address their problems.
  • Young women face the additional barriers of cultural and gendered norms that hinder their access to mobile phone technology and to the Internet. Shifting these constraining but powerful social and cultural norms, is a national gender equity issue beyond the scope of traditional telecommunications policy.

Suggested citation

Chair, C., & De Lannoy, A. (2018). Youth, Deprivation and the Internet in Africa (Policy Paper No. 4; Series 5: After Access – Assessing Digital Inequality in Africa). Research ICT Africa.