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Internet penetration and Reading culture in Developing countries

It has always been said that the best way to hide information from an African is by writing it. Africans are well known for the poorest reading habits. Every motivational speaker I have listened to, has had to mention reading as the best way to redeem Africa. Reading, on a number of cases has been sought after as the best way to run away from the cyclic cycle of poverty affecting the developing countries. Finding the number of people in Africa who can read a book and complete it is a tricky task. Many people have always blamed this problem (poor reading) to limited availability of reading materials. Most of the materials are for sale, at prices most people would not want to reserve for reading purposes.

With the invent of web 2.0, more information has been readily availed for almost all people who can access even the slowest Internet. The past five years have seen most of the African countries more than double their Internet Penetration numbers1. Internet has become cheaper, and more available on the move.

There are no concrete numbers on our reading habits and the increasing availability of Internet but many people are arguing that it is not the absence of what to read that created this bad reading habit, but the culture. A lot of information is available in the print media, either free of charge to access but not all is read.

Recently, on one of the discussion forums2, (I-network) we discussed how government was looking at facilitating Members of Parliament (MPs) with laptops, smart phones (actually Ipads) to have more access to discussion documents while in house or any where because some MPs complained that the printed reports were just bulky. It however was deduced that this would not change the reading habits of the house. MPs will continue coming to the floor with out information about the discussion topic.

With the advent of web 2.0 Internet, Internet use and reading has increased but what is discussed is fun, jokes, obnoxious news and some few quotes. Social networks are now responsible for over 28% of Internet Penetration in Africa3. It is very hard to find some one reading and linking other friends to some piece of good reading material if it is developmental. If some one does share material, very few people will follow it, but let it be a joke, nude pictures, music and name it in that line, the followers will be in millions.

Can some one comfortably state that developing countries where cursed when it comes to reading and nothing will ever change the trends? Do you think the higher Internet penetration will ultimately change the course with time? How can we use this almost free resource (Internet) to advance our reading culture as we know reading is knowledge and knowledge is wealth; a better way to move away from the enslavement of poverty.





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Comment by Mayengo Tom Kizito on August 12, 2012 at 12:19pm

Thank you Sarah,

As more Internet is availed, some of us believe that more people will be forced to read. Two reasons to this thinking; All the Internet gadgets in use need at least some understanding of how to operate them. Most of the information we look for on the Internet will require us to learn on how to look for it. I thus suspect that when Internet becomes a daily thing in developing countries, some people will be forced to read.

Comment by Sarah Kiden on August 8, 2012 at 10:09am

Tom, thank you for putting this article together. I agree that it is not the absence of what to read but the culture that has affected many people in Africa and other developing countries. I want to add that we are not cursed as you stated but just have the wrong attitude towards reading. For a start, I can tell you that we are still battling illiteracy and it may be very hard for a parent who cannot read and write to encourage their child to read. But, we can change this as a community.......together.



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