Positive Impact of Internet Connectivity on Life in Sub-Saharan Africa

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The FINANCIAL — Sub-Saharan Africa has experienced dramatic gains in internet use in recent years. With this rapid growth in connectivity have come a host of potential problems, including fake news, political targeting and manipulation and financial scams, among others.

Yet according to a new Pew Research Center analysis, most sub-Saharan Africans feel positively about the role the internet plays in their country. Large majorities say the increasing use of the internet has had a good influence on education in their country, and half or more say the same about the economy, personal relationships and politics.

Only when it comes to the issue of morality are sub-Saharan Africans somewhat more divided about the role the internet is playing. Across six major nations surveyed in the region, a median of 45% say the internet has had a positive impact on morality, while 39% say it is has been negative. These views vary substantially by country. For example, a majority of Nigerians (57%) believe the internet is having a good influence on morality, while more than half of Senegalese (54%) say the opposite.

Still, in some countries, evaluations of how the internet affects morality have improved since 2014. In Ghana today, 42% think that growing internet use has a positive effect on morality – up from 29% in 2014. Favorable assessments of the internet’s impact on economics and politics have risen even more over the same time period.

For example, in 2017, around two-thirds of Nigerians (64%) said the increasing use of the internet had a positive influence on their country’s politics, compared with just 43% in 2014.Generally, internet users –meaning people who say they use the internet or own an internet-connected smartphone – are more positive about its influence. For example, in all countries but Tanzania, internet users are more likely to think the internet plays a positive role in the country’s politics.

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In most countries, these gaps in attitudes between internet haves and have-nots persist whether looking at issues of morality, education, or even the economy. For instance, 72% of Ghanaian internet users see economic benefits stemming from greater connectivity, compared with 54% of non-users, and the pattern is the same in Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria.

These are among the major findings of a Pew Research Center survey conducted in six sub-Saharan African countries from Feb. 21 to April 28, 2017, among 6,795 respondents.



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