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Digital oases and digital deserts in Sub-Saharan Africa


Journal of Science and Technology Policy Management, Volume 7, Issue 1, March 2016. Purpose The paper investigates whether Sub-Saharan African countries are catching up with the rest of the world in terms of online usage. Online service usage is an important component of the discourse of the ‘digital divide’ – an emblematic term for the inequality of information and communication technology (ICT) access. Design/methodology/approach Quantitative analysis of Internet- and Facebook penetration coupled with economic strength (GDP/capita), literacy and degree of rural population. Findings Our findings reveal a heterogeneous pattern with a few African countries being digital oases and close to European levels, whereas the majority of the countries are still digital deserts. We find a strong correlation between economic strength and Internet penetration. A generalist picture that Sub-Saharan is on the trajectory of closing the digital divide is an imprecise reflection of the reality. Research limitations/implications We argue that instead of measuring supply-side data, which has been the trend till now, the use of demand-side elements such as online service usage tells us more about digital inequalities between countries. Practical implications The research encourages Internet firms to open up their eyes for Sub-Saharan Africa as an investment opportunity with an untapped gap of online usage. Originality/value There is a paucity of research going into depth of online usage in Africa. The paper is a contribution to fill that gap.