Toward Digital Inclusion: Understanding the Literacy Effect on Adoption and Use of Mobile Phones and the Internet in Africa

Mariama Deen-Swarray


Mobile phones and the Internet are central components of the information and communication technology (ICT) landscape. ICTs are at the forefront of economic and social inclusion in contemporary societies. The accrued benefits, however, are not being realized fully in some regions. Although access has generally increased across Africa, the extent of adoption and use is suboptimal, thus undermining the role of ICTs in facilitating digital inclusion. This article looks at how three levels of literacy—basic, English-language, and e-skills—might affect adoption and use of mobile phones and the Internet in selected African countries. It sheds light on the role of literacy in the adoption process through evidence-based analysis. The analysis consists of logistic regressions performed on data from 12 African countries surveyed in relation to ICT access and use and supplemented by focus group data from six of these countries. It was found that, on average, both adoption and range of ICT uses correlated with increased basic literacy. Adoption and use increased even more when English-language and/or e-skills literacy were also present.

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