The usage of smartphones appears to increase household income and consumption. Both quality (relatively) cheap smartphones and 3G+ coverage are increasingly available throughout Africa. But the majority of households have very limited disposable income both to buy a smartphone, in particular, to purchase data. The prohibitive cost of data stops many from using the internet/apps and those that do “sip” rather than “surf”. The result is a significant and persistent usage gap, even as the coverage gap reduces. Orality and lack of digital capability mean that icon- and IVR-driven interfaces will be essential to build self-initiated usage. But much of the shift to internet/app usage must be assisted and mentored by agents. Agents offer a range of real advantages but also a wide variety of risks/consumer protection concerns that will require attention.
In this report, MSC highlights critical barriers to bridging the digital divide.