In Rural Asia, Internet Access Has to Be Marketed; It Does Not Sell Itself

source: Brookings
In both developed and emerging economies, people remain digitally unconnected for a variety of reasons.

In many cases, access networks literally are not present. In other cases, local-language services and content are unavailable.

Some potential users have poor computer skills or disabilities such as blindness.

In other cases, potential users simply do not understand the benefits, said Jay Chen, Huawei India CEO.

Also, Internet access “does not sell itself.” It “must be marketed.”

“There is an old saying about life insurance: that it isn’t bought, it’s sold, meaning few people want the product unless someone explicitly spells out its benefits,” said Chen. “Connectivity is like that with some populations.”

But connectivity, though necessary, is not sufficient to drive extensive adoption. “Huawei’s research also shows that the world’s most digitally connected countries aim to enhance user experience and stimulate demand, rather than focusing exclusively on providing cheaper connections,” said Chen.

Others note that digital illiteracy (people do not know how to use smartphones, computers), language barriers, literacy, taxes, fees, access prices and lack of perceived relevant content are barriers to wider use of the Internet, even if access facilities are not the issue.

That is another way of noting something very important about the Internet ecosystem. Access is necessary. But the reason access to the Internet is necessary is that people want to do things with apps, and use services.

And controversial though the practice remains, zero rating does work. In a number of countries, zero rating services have enabled people to get access to the Internet who otherwise had no access, a study by Brookings has found.

Globe found zero rating doubled Internet users and grew Globe Internet access customer base 25 percent.

In Paraguay, “the number of people using the internet by 50 percent over the course of the partnership and [an] increase [in the] daily data usage by more than 50 percent,” after zero rating of Internet Basics was introduced.

The number of Facebook users rose 154 percent in Nigeria, 85 percent in Ghana, and 50 percent in Kenya after Internet Basics was introduced.


For the continent of Africa as a whole, there was a reported 114 percent increase in Facebook users after the launch of zero rating , Brookings says.
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