Internet access and use in rural Tanzania

Start date: 7 July, 2016 End date: 8 August, 2016 Project type: Master's Thesis (prior to 2018) Project code: A29928 Countries: Tanzania Institutions: University of Copenhagen (UCPH), Denmark University of Copenhagen (UCPH), Faculty of Social Sciences, Denmark University of Copenhagen (UCPH), Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Anthropology, Denmark Grant recipient: Emil Ravnsbjerg Damholt Total grant: 18,000 DKK

Description

Abstract:

Ensuring access to the internet for individuals in all parts of the world has been an important priority for country governments and development institutions in decades. The reason is that individuals on the wrong side of the so-called digital divide are excluded them from the socio-economic benefits of the online knowledge society. However, many internet access projects aiming to bridge the digital divide has experienced limited success due to low adoption rates and limited use beyond social communication. This study investigates a WiFi internet project in 8 villages in rural Tanzania in which the internet service provider appears to have addressed critical barriers to adoption by offering free online content in local languages and providing technical training and support. It is investigated to what extend the project has managed to bridge digital divides. By using unique individual level usage data in combination with both quantitative and qualitative fieldwork data, it is found that the project has in fact bridged the adoption divide. However, large inequalities exist, and large use divides on the basis of demographic characteristics are revealed. It is finally suggested that the digital divide is a symptom of deeper divides, and bridging it requires more than providing technologies and addressing critical barriers. Rather, improving individuals’ informational capabilities is required to bridge the digital divide.