The diffusion of digital information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the Global South is proceeding at a high speed. The development in sub-Saharan Africa is particularly dynamic, where more and more people have access to ICTs, with smartphones being on the increase. The fast growing usage of digital media has a significant impact on the economic, social and political structures of the continent and raises several questions for media and communication scholars.
So far the main body of research on the impact of ICT use has been conducted in western or industrialized nations, such as the USA, European or East Asian countries. The theoretical approaches, which were developed in a western setting to describe and explain digital media use and effects, cannot be easily applied to the specific economic, political and social conditions in Africa. However, some theories might be applicable in a modified version. The few studies on the usage of digital media in Africa do not provide enough reliable data that can be compared on an international level, as they mainly consist of practical application and case studies.
The focus of research at the Division Media Use Research in this context aims to draw a comprehensive picture of the usage of ICTs by African citizens. For this purpose several projects, applying both quantitative and qualitative methods, have been carried out or are currently running or projected. The aim is not only to gain insight into the media usage in this region, but also to enhance the theoretical knowledge of the potential of ICTs for society and of the factors influencing the use of digital media in general.