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Facebook is Driving ICT Adoption in Africa

By Wayan Vota on August 4, 2009

During a recent Inveneo training of ICT professionals, I was amazed to hear that most everyone had a Facebook account. Not only that, the computer technicians were seeing a spike in bandwidth usage directly tied to Facebook. And absolutely everyone felt that too much work-time was spent updating Facebooks accounts.

Now you could see that as a negative – the countless lost man hours of work time spent socializing instead of producing goods and services for Africa’s millions. Or you could look at it another way:

Facebook is driving ICT adoption in Africa

The consensus of group, marketing and technical experts at African ICT companies, was that Facebook was creating demand for their services. Current clients wanted faster Internet connectivity to download all the images and video sent their way via Facebook, and more technology (cameras, video & image editing software) to create content for their Facebook pages.

All the chatter about Facebook accounts was also driving new customers to buy computers and invest in Internet connectivity. “I need to get Facebook,” is becoming a common refrain at retail computer stores. This should not come as a surprise.

Facebook in Africa

Facebook has over 300,000 users in Kenya, is the most popular site in South Africa, and is growing by 20,000 new users per month in Nigeria and Ghana – 3x the US growth rate.

Facebook is encoraging this rapid growth with interfaces in Swahili and Afrikaans, with Zulu and Hausa on the way. Yes, even ICTworks is on Facebook.

Benefits Beyond Facebook

Now Facebook is not a personal favorite, but I am glad something is driving ICT adoption, and through that, an overall comfort with online activity. I expect that from Facebook usage will spring forth usage of other web services, like Twitter and blogging, and hopefully a blossoming of local African content that will make conferences like this one, seem quaint.

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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of his employer, any of its entities, or any ICTWorks sponsor.
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9 Comments to “Facebook is Driving ICT Adoption in Africa”

  1. Wayan Vota says:

    Thanks to Oluniyi David Ajao, we now have news that the world’s number 1 social networking website has launched a very light version of their popular platform, for people in low-bandwidth situations who still need to connect to Facebook without opting for the mobile phone versions.

    David’s verdict: Facebook Lite is truly light.

  2. Wayan Vota says:

    For those that doubt its popularity, here are several photos of Facebook usage in Botswana schools, thanks to James BonTempo:

  3. Kathleen Diga says:

    Interesting article. You may also want to examine why Facebook has become so popular or who / what is driving it. I suspect that it has something to do with TV / Radio media telling their audience to check out Facebook for certain information that they advertised or announced. Unresearched but very very interesting.

  4. Wayan Vota says:

    Uganda Telecom Limited (UTL) last week unveiled yet another new product on the other range of services it offers. UTL’s Facebook and Twitter SMS service is now accessible to all UTL subscribers at no cost.
    Addressing the media at the launch of the two social networks, Testai Menghastab the chief technician at the UTL said, “the two social networking media will enable Uganda Telecom’s subscribers to update and be updated regarding their Facebook and Twitter accounts by SMS, thereby expanding the use and impact of the two social networking tools in Uganda”.
    Mark Kaheru the UTL public relations manager said the Facebook and Twitter SMS service will bring immense excitement and delight to their customers especially those that access the internet only at their working places”. The service is applicable to all types of mobile handset and is free to access. Kaheru said UTL has enough bandwidth to handle the SMS traffic flow.

    UTL to provide free Facebook/Twitter access via SMS

  5. Wayan Vota says:

    Wow! There are almost 2.5 million Facebook users in South Africa – an amazing stat Nick Burcher

  6. sramm says:

    guys,,,just something to ponder….refrain from putting in too much of your personal data into FaceBook. for security reasons..

  7. Wayan Vota says:

    New from the webstats counters at Opera Mini: Facebook is now the #1 visited website in South Africa, besting Google. But Mxit is at #3 – a win for social networking and South African software development

  8. Anonymous says:

    Any more recent stats onf acebook in Africa?

  9. What I love about this is that facebook have achieved this through a very simple and intuative interface. meaning quick adoption with no need for end user training..

    Can this approach be successful if adopted for other ICT4D and ICT4EDU projects in Africa.