Sunday, April 2, 2017

Free Float Internet Policies (Findings from access and use survey)

Here we list the findings from the quantitative analysis of the household surveys conducted in 2014/15 to understand the access and use of the Internet technologies, including the fixed and mobile broadband. The research was carried out by Martin Chautari (2014-2016) with support from the Ford Foundation. This project would not have been possible without the generous support of the local partners. We would like to thank Nasancha Pucha: (Panauti), Himalaya Milan Secondary School (Tangting) and Progressive Women Society (Changunarayan) for their facilitation, assistance and support. We are also grateful to Bhagabati Gautam for her assistance and volunteering work in Pragatinagar.
Note: The paper is available in the journal “Studies in Nepali History and Society” (SINHAS), Vol. 21 No. 1. It is also available online here. The full set of briefs and papers can be found in our Universal Connectivity page]
  • A family spends 7 percent of their household income on mobile phone bills.
  • Though reported penetration of mobile phone has well crossed the cent percent mark (120%), the five locations had 72 percent household ownership (and similar individual ownership among the respondents). Therefore, NTAs subscriber count is likely to be sim counts.
  • Only half of the mobile phone owners had ever used internet from their sets.
  • Only 8 percent of the households had a fixed internet connection.
  • Less than 3 percent households in Dapcha own a computer (laptop or desktop). Except Panauti which has around 35 percent household ownership of computers, the four site averages to around 8 percent penetration. This is similar to statistics reported by the World Bank (8.9% in 2015).
  • Anything better than a weak statistical association among the Internet use and socio-demographic variables could not be found. For example, people with higher education did not exhibit a tendency to use the Internet for education and employment activities.
  • Income groups were indistinguishable in their use of mobile Internet.
  • Results on the ethnicity-Internet link show that in a particular settlement the ICT penetration and ownership of devices seem to reinforce the socio-economic exclusion. Across the sites, however, people belonging to the single ethnic group have varied access levels of ownership such as the Newars in Dapcha and Panauti or Gurungs in Changunarayan and Tangting.
  • Location advantage offered a better explanation of Internet adoption than chasing the ethnicity and income threads.
  • Over two-third of the people in the survey said home Internet was “not required”. The indistinguishable usage pattern across income groups and age levels indicate main reason for non-use could be the absence of any compelling need for such technology.
  • In our survey sites, only Panauti and Pragatinagar had households with more fixed broadband penetration than the unflattering national average.
  • Only 12 percent of the total Internet users have used the Internet or mobile-apps for private or government electronic-services (e-services). Only 27 percent of the respondents say they have ever used Internet for obtaining government information.
  • Four out of five mobile phone using respondents, including the broadband Internet users, complained about regular “network problems.”
  • There is dearth of evidence to unlock association between local content, Internet infrastructure and affordability to forge meaningful ICT policies.

The IT policy documents will do better if they accept that the outcome of a technological intervention depends on the use people find for the technology. There is no denying that the relationships among the digital divide, poverty and education are enormously complex, particularly when, for instance, the difference in relative and absolute poverty will make available studies about the relationship questionable. The complexity also becomes obvious when policy interventions could frame questions of the divide variously as problems of access, or skill, or content. Our survey reinforces the understanding that adoption decisions are primarily need-driven and based on cost-effectiveness of the investment. Farmers of Dapcha, for instance, are likely to revert to existing information channels if Internet do not offer content tailored to their information requests.

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