5 key findings on how individuals access and use the Internet in ECTEL Member States

A brief examination of some of the findings from an ECTEL survey on how individuals access and use the Internet in five Caribbean countries.
Last week, the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) announced the release of the findings of a broadband Internet survey it had commissioned in 2014. The resulting report, Broadband access and use in the ECTEL Member States, summarised the outputs of three surveys administered to: households; individuals (15 years and older); and minor children (14 years and younger). Those exercises were conducted in Saint Kitts and Nevis; Dominica; Saint Lucia; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada, which together are termed the ECTEL Member States and are the countries in which ECTEL is part of the telecoms/ICT regulatory machinery.

The surveys, which were administered by the local statistics department and National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, were able to reach a wide cross-section of individuals in each of the five participating countries. Across all of the countries and for each of the three surveys conducted, the total number of survey responses received were as follows:

  • Household access and use – 3,294 households
  • Individual access and use – 8,460 individual (aged 15 and above), and
  • Access and use by minors – 3,142 minor children (aged below 15 years).

In this article, we highlight some of the key findings from the survey of broadband Internet access and use by individuals. (In separate posts, we will focus on households and minors.) Although many of the outcomes might not be new, thanks to the survey they have now been substantiated by data, and in some instances, it might be a bit surprising the extent to which certain trends are prevalent. More importantly, the existence of this data may not only seed new business ideas and opportunities, but also inform national and regional policy in the countries examined.

1.  Access to fixed broadband Internet service is not ubiquitous

The first part of the survey focussed on the access and use of fixed broadband Internet service by individuals. Interestingly, only half of respondents stated they had used fixed Internet service within the last three months.

In terms of profile, approximately 80% of respondents were between the ages of 15 and 54 years, which would include students and (potentially) working adults, who we would expect to be computer, and Internet savvy. However, with only 68% of the 8,460 individual surveyed employed or students, and the balance being either unemployed or retired, a significant portion of the survey group may not have ready access to a PC,  laptop,  tablet computer, or other similar device through which to access fixed broadband service.

2.  Smartphones might not be a ubiquitous was we think

Though we might readily observe persons who still use a basic mobile phone, we might be overwhelmed by those who smartphones. However, among the ECTEL Member States, the basic mobile phone might not be as sporadic as we think.

On average almost a third of the respondents still had a basic mobile/cellular phone as their primary phone. It therefore suggests that a considerable portion of the population – and through their devices – would have limited Internet capability and would not be able to capitalise the sophisticated features that a typical smartphone might possess.

Further for software application developers and entrepreneurs that are designing products for mobile/cellular users, depending on how they are built, a third of the population may not be able to access those products because they do not have a smartphone. However, with smartphones now available at abroad range of price points, again their features and capabilities would vary, and some users might still be excluded.

3.  Fixed Internet service is being used for a range of productive and leisure activities

Most respondents who accessed fixed Internet service used it for what the survey had termed productive activities, for example sending and reading email, and conducting research, as opposed to leisure activities. The top 10 activities for which fixed Internet was used among individuals were as follows:

  1. Emailing
  2. Doing general research
  3. Instant messaging
  4. Downloading or listening to music
  5. Participating in social media/blogging
  6. Streaming or downloading movies, videos
  7. Playing or downloading video games
  8. Purchasing goods or services
  9. Watching educational videos
  10. Watching television

4.  A broad range of Internet-based activities are being done on mobile/cellular phones

For respondents that access the Internet on their mobile/cellular phone, they were using those devices for a variety of activities – both productive and leisure. In terms of leisure activities, the top five were:

  1. Listening to music
  2. Playing games
  3. Posting photos or videos online
  4. Downloading or streaming video
  5. Listening to the local radio

With regard to productive activities, the top five activities that were being done on mobile/cellular phones using the Internet were:

  1. Seeking information
  2. Weather information
  3. Watching educational videos
  4. Local/regional news websites
  5. Purchasing goods or services

5.  Persons are looking for greater ease and convenience

Finally, although it can be argued that there are a multitude of Internet-based products and services already available, there still appears to be scope for services that are relevant to consumers in the ECTEL Member States. Regarding local service individuals would use if it were available online, the top five responses were:

  1. Purchasing, or ordering goods for home delivery
  2. Making an appointment to see a healthcare or other
  3. Participating in online training programs
  4. Watching local TV stations
  5. Watching local sporting events.


Image credits:  89studio (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)


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