Facebook Users In Developing Countries Don’t Know They’re on the Internet

By Kimberlee Morrison Comment

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Interestingly, there seems to be a disparity in some developing countries between internet users and Facebook users. In fact, in some cases more people report using the social network than using the internet.

The disparity was noted in 2012 by Helani Galpaya, COO of think-tank LIRNEasia, when studying internet use in Thailand and Indonesia. There was roughly a 10 percent gap between Facebook and Internet use. Rohan Samarajiva, founding chair of LIRNEasia also said, “It seemed that in their minds, the Internet did not exist; only Facebook.”

Quartz decided to try and replicate this phenomenon, and with a limited study of 500 users in Nigeria and Indonesia, found the same 10 percent disparity. More than half of this group says they never follow links out of Facebook, so their entire interaction with the internet is indeed just through the social network.

This could potentially be harmful to the development and adoption of the internet in these countries, according to Leo Mirani, a reporter for Quartz London:

If people stay on one service, it follows that content, advertisers, and associated services also will flow to that service, possibly to the exclusion of other venues.

Mirani notes that many service providers in developing countries offer cheaper Facebook specific data plans because of consumer demand. In some cases, Facebook access is free and the social network is the only app on the device. This makes general access less available.

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Facebook even launched a lite app to keep people with poor connections online, so it’s easy to see the network’s appeal in developing nations.

The trend of Facebook-only internet use seems to be largely associated with mobile devices. Social Times has reported previously on how the growth of mobile is driving internet adoption worldwide. But if Facebook is driving the expansion of the internet through Internet.org, how can we be certain everyone will get access to the internet, and not just Facebook?

We can’t be according to John Naughton, a professor of the Open University in the UK, writing for The Guardian:

The goal of public policy everywhere should be to increase access to the internet – the whole goddam internet, not some corporate-controlled alcove – for as many people as possible. By condoning zero-rating we will condemn to a lifetime of servitude as one of Master Zuckerberg’s sharecroppers.

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