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First-time internet users in Nigeria use the internet in a unique way. Here’s why that matters

First-time internet users in Nigeria use the internet in a unique way. Here’s why that matters

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Nigeria is one of the most exciting frontiers for emerging technology usage. The country, known as the “giant of Africa,” shows up in headlines calling it “Africa’s unofficial tech capital,” and “the new economy of Africa.”

However, many Nigerians fueling this rapid growth in the tech space actually under-utilize their technology. While these Nigerians show great interest in mobile devices and the internet, our research shows that they aren’t aware of the ways they can leverage technology to their advantage.

There’s a huge opportunity to help new users engage with technology and the internet in new ways, proving beneficial to both newly connected consumers and the key industry players that facilitate that connection.

We completed a study to better understand how the average Nigerian currently uses and perceives mobile phones and the internet. We hope our insights and recommendations will encourage you to become a part of Nigeria’s growing tech space.
Research overview

We surveyed 819 individuals and 48 retailers and phone sellers from seven Nigerian states. Overall, respondents were interested in owning a phone and having mobile internet, but were not fully aware of all the benefits and ways to use the internet.

We found that first-time internet users enjoy reading and surfing the web, but many have yet to discover how the internet can be beneficial to their entire community. New users tend to learn about the internet from members of their local communities in an offline setting, which often leads to a narrow view of what the internet has to offer. For example, they might only hear about a few specific apps and have misconceptions about both the internet and how to access it.

A large portion of respondents work informal jobs such as petty trading, farming, and artisan work. Although they spend most of their income on food, shelter, and clothing, they are still willing to invest in things that make their lives more fun and allow them to connect with others.
Who was included in our study?

We designed our study to provide an accurate depiction of newly connected consumers in Nigeria. As such, we structured our respondent pool to include specific age ranges, income levels, and geographic locations. Our interviewees can be segmented as follows:

    40% rural, 35% semi-urban, and 25% urban: This split provides an accurate picture of Nigeria’s urbanization status.
    A significant portion works in informal and/or unstable jobs such as farming (15%), petty trading (31%), or artisan work (21%).
    All respondents earn less than NGN 360,000 (USD 990) annually.
    Our sample was slightly skewed toward a younger population because 54% of the entire Nigerian population is under 20 years of age. Ages 16-50 were included in the study.

Internet perception

Our study shows that respondents have a specific perception of internet content that is very different from that of the developed world. For example, using Opera, a major web browser app, is seen as synonymous with “browsing the internet.” This leads to the unintended consequence of users not discovering the browser app that comes with their mobile device if the app icon does not look similar to the Opera icon. We found a number of similar misconceptions of the internet and device capabilities throughout the study.
Finding: Internet is a status symbol, but not widely understood

The majority of the respondents claim they need an internet-enabled phone, but their reasoning is based more on social status and perception than the actual benefits.

    “Well, this world right now is a global or internet world; everything is all about internet, so that is why everybody needs an internet-enabled device.” Male, 21-30 years, Anambra state, semi-urban

    “In our time now, if you don’t have an internet-enabled mobile phone, it’s like you are nothing, and you must let people know you have it.” Female, 21-30 years, Abuja city, urban

From these responses (and others), we discovered that the need for internet access did not tie back to what respondents actually do online. Instead, their reasoning was based on how other people view them.