Publics see mobile phones and social media bringing certain benefits to them and their societies. But these views are paired with widespread concerns about their impact on children
After more than a decade of studying the spread and impact of digital life in the United States, Pew Research Center has intensified its exploration of the impact of online connectivity among populations in emerging economies – where the prospect of swift and encompassing cultural change propelled by digital devices might be even more dramatic than the effects felt in developed societies.
Surveys conducted in 11 emerging and developing countries across four global regions find that the vast majority of adults in these countries own – or have access to – a mobile phone of some kind.1 And these mobile phones are not simply basic devices with little more than voice and texting capacity: A median of 53% across these nations now have access to a smartphone capable of accessing the internet and running apps.
The 11 countries in this report and why they were included
This report is the first of several reports that will be issued this year based on nationally representative surveys of adults ages 18 and older conducted in 11 countries located in four different regions of the globe: Mexico, Venezuela and Colombia; South Africa and Kenya; India, Vietnam and the Philippines; and Tunisia, Jordan and Lebanon.
These countries were selected for the survey based on a number of criteria. Key goals of the country selection process were to assemble a group of countries that:
- Are middle-income countries as defined by the World Bank.
- Contain a mix of people with different sorts of devices. Many of these countries have notable variation in the share of their populations who have smartphones, more basic phones – or no phones at all.
- Offer country-level diversity and variety. These countries offer a variety of regional, political, economic, social, cultural, population size and geographic conditions.
- Vary in their market conditions. These countries differ in their technological and industry competitiveness, and have a range of “networked readiness” ratings as calculated by the World Economic Forum.
- In many cases have high levels of internal or external migration. Each of these countries exhibits rising levels of urbanization, and most still have substantial rural populations. A special report examining the impact of mobile phones on the migrant experience is also forthcoming.
In concert with this development, social media platforms and messaging apps – most notably, Facebook and WhatsApp – are widely used. Across the surveyed countries, a median of 64% use at least one of seven different social media sites or messaging apps.2 Indeed, smartphones and social media have melded so thoroughly that for many they go hand-in-hand. A median of 91% of smartphone users in these countries also use social media, while a median of 81% of social media users say they own or share a smartphone.
What is a median?
Throughout this report, median percentages are used to help readers see overall patterns. The median is the middle number in a list of figures sorted in ascending or descending order. In a survey of 11 countries, the median result is the sixth figure on a list of country-level findings ranked in order.
People in these nations say mobile phones have helped them personally in various ways. Among mobile phone users, an 11-country median of 93% say these devices have helped them stay in touch with people who live far away, and a somewhat smaller share (a median of 79%) say they have helped them obtain news and information about important issues. More broadly, majorities of adults in all 11 countries say the internet has had a good impact on education – and majorities in 10 of 11 countries say the same of mobile phones.
Facebook has brought a lot of advantages for our society. However, it has also affected society in a negative way. Just like anything which can be used for both good and bad, social media have brought negatives and positives for people.MAN, 22, PHILIPPINES
At the same time, smaller shares of adults in these nations say mobile phones and social media have been good for society than say these technologies have been good for them personally. And the challenges that digital life can pose for children are a particularly notable source of concern. Some 79% of adults in these countries say people should be very concerned about children being exposed to harmful or immoral content when using mobile phones, and a median of 63% say mobile phones have had a bad influence on children in their country. They also express mixed opinions about the impact of increased connectivity on physical health and morality.
Some of these tensions between the upsides and downsides of digital life span all 11 countries surveyed. At other times, there are nation-specific elements to people’s views about what these technologies have brought to their lives. For instance, more than half of mobile phone users in five of these countries describe their phone as something they couldn’t live without – but users in six countries are more likely to describe it as something they don’t always need.
These are among the major findings from a new Pew Research Center survey conducted among 28,122 adults in 11 countries from Sept. 7 to Dec. 7, 2018. In addition to the survey, the Center conducted focus groups with diverse groups of participants in Kenya, Mexico, the Philippines and Tunisia in March 2018, and their comments are included throughout the report.
How the focus groups were conducted
Pew Research Center conducted a series of focus groups to better understand how people think about their own mobile phones and the impact of these devices on their society. Five focus groups were held in each of the following four countries: Kenya, Mexico, the Philippines and Tunisia. Each focus group consisted of 10 adults coming together for an hour and a half for a discussion led by a local, professional moderator using a guide developed by the Center. For more information on how these groups were conducted, see Appendix A.
These groups were primarily used to help shape the survey questions asked in each of the 11 countries. But, throughout the report, we have also included quotations that illustrate some of the major themes that were discussed during the groups. Quotations are chosen to provide context for the survey findings and do not necessarily represent the majority opinion in any particular group or country. Quotations may have been edited for grammar and clarity.
Majorities say mobile phones and social media have mostly been good for them personally, somewhat less so for society
Asked for their overall assessment of the impact of mobile devices and social media platforms on society and their own lives, people in these nations generally are more affirming than not. But within this broadly positive consensus, there are important nuances.
First, at both a personal and societal level publics are generally more likely to say mobile phones have had a mostly good impact than to say the same of social media. A median of 70% of adults across these 11 countries say mobile phones have been a mostly good thing for society, but that share falls to 57% on the question of the impact of social media. Indeed, a median of 27% think social media have been a mostly bad thing for society.
Second, these publics are more likely to say that both mobile phones and social media have been mostly good for them personally than they are to say they have been mostly good for society. As noted above, an 11-country median of 70% say that mobile phones have been mostly good for society. But an even larger share of 82% say mobile phones have been mostly good for them personally. When it comes to social media, users of these sites are generally more likely to proclaim their benefits than non-users. Even among users, people’s views of their personal impact tend to be more positive than their views of their societal impact.
These broad themes tend to occur across the full scope of the countries surveyed. But Kenyans and Vietnamese stand out somewhat for their more positive views of the societal impact of both mobile phones and social media. Conversely, relatively large shares of Venezuelans view the societal impact of these technologies as a negative one.
Many worry that mobile phones are a problem for children; it is common for parents to attempt to curtail and surveil their child’s screen time
While on balance people in these nations express largely positive judgments about the personal and societal impact of technologies, they also express significant concerns over the effects mobile phones and online connectivity might have on young people. Worries that mobile phones might expose children to immoral or harmful content are a key flashpoint in these fears. A median of 79% of adults in these 11 countries – and majorities in all countries surveyed – say people should be very concerned about this. More broadly, a median of 54% say the increasing use of the internet has had a bad influence on children in their country, and a median of 63% say the same about mobile phones.
Coupled with these concerns, many parents say they try to be vigilant about what their children are doing and seeing on their phones.3 Among parents whose children have mobile phones, a median of 50% say they monitor what their children do on their mobile devices. Parents who are themselves smartphone or social media users are more likely than non-users to monitor their child’s phone in this way. Along with monitoring their children’s activities on their mobile devices, a median of 52% of parents whose children have mobile phones have tried to limit the time their children spend with their phones.
Beyond these concerns about the influence of connectivity on children, people’s views of the broader impact of digital technologies on family life are more positive. For instance, the vast majority of mobile phone users (a median of 93% across the 11 countries) say their phone has helped them stay in touch with people who live far away. And although majorities of Lebanese (70%) and Jordanians (62%) feel that mobile phones have had a bad influence on family cohesion, in most other countries surveyed, more say mobile phones have had a good influence in this regard than a bad one.
Publics are divided over the role mobile phones play in their lives
Overall, mobile phone users tend to associate their mobile phones with feelings of freedom. In every country surveyed, a larger share of mobile phone users describe their phone as something that frees them as opposed to something that ties them down.
When it comes to whether their phones help them save time or make them waste time, the largest share of mobile phone users in seven countries describe their phone as something that helps them save time. Still, larger shares of Jordanians and Filipinos describe their phone as something that makes them waste time. And in Lebanon and Mexico, roughly equal shares see their phone as a time saver and time waster.
Across the 11 countries surveyed, mobile phone users fall into two camps about whether their phone is something they don’t always need or something they couldn’t live without. Kenyans, South Africans, Jordanians, Tunisians and Lebanese who use a mobile phone are more likely to say their phone is something they couldn’t live without. But in the six other countries, larger shares say they don’t always need their phone.
Both phone type and demographic differences are at the core of these assessments about the value of mobile phones in users’ lives. For instance, adults ages 50 and older are more likely than those under 30 to view their phone as a time saver, while younger adults are more likely to view it as a time waster – a relationship that persists in most countries even when accounting for age-related differences in smartphone use. And although mobile phone users tend to see their phone as something that frees them, the prevalence of these attitudes varies by device type. For instance, in most countries, smartphone users are more likely than basic or feature phone users to say their phone is something that ties them down rather than something that frees them.
Have you ever gone one day without a phone? You feel like you’re not in this world.MAN, 32, KENYA
Publics in these countries say mobile phones have a beneficial impact on certain aspects of society, but a more negative influence on others
People’s assessments of the specific societal impacts of mobile phones vary depending on the aspect of society in question. Broadly, people in most countries think mobile phones and the internet have had similar impacts on society – possibly because for many their online access comes through a mobile phone.
In most countries, education stands out as the issue where the largest share of adults say the increasing use of the internet and mobile phones has had a good impact. A median of 67% say this about the impact of mobile phones, and a median of 71% about the internet. Public attitudes regarding the influence of the internet on education have grown more positive since 2014 in six of the countries studied here (Jordan, South Africa, Kenya, Vietnam, Lebanon and Mexico), while falling in Tunisia.
Adults in the 11 nations surveyed also view these technologies as having a largely good influence on the economy: A median of 58% say this of mobile phones and 56% say same about the internet. And in seven of the 10 countries for which trends are available, more people today say the increasing use of the internet has had a good influence on their country’s economy than said the same in 2014.4
But digital connectivity is seen in a less positive light when it comes to other issues. In addition to their widespread worries about the impact on children, publics in these countries also express mixed views about increased connectivity’s impact on health. An 11-country median of 40% say mobile phones have had a bad influence on physical health, and 37% say the same of the internet. Majorities of the public in Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia view these technologies as having a negative influence on health.
Children usually play with gadgets the most and are exposed to radiation and experiencing seizures – that’s what I heard.MAN, 43, PHILIPPINES
Also, instead of playing outside, they are busy with gadgets. […] They are no longer able to socialize with other kids.WOMAN, 21, PHILIPPINES
In addition, a median of 35% say that both mobile phones and the internet have had a bad influence on morality. In four countries for which trend data are available (Kenya, Venezuela, Mexico and Colombia), larger shares of the public say the internet has had a good influence on morality than was true four years ago. But in Jordan and Lebanon, the shares saying this have declined since 2014.
When people consider issues such as the impact of digital tools on local culture, civility, family cohesion and politics, the overall balance of public sentiment leans positive. But notable minorities – ranging from a median of 20% in the case of family cohesion to a median of 29% in the case of politics – say mobile phones have had a negative impact on these facets of society.
Moreover, public opinion across these 11 countries has diverged in recent years when it comes to the internet’s impact on politics. Compared with surveys conducted in 2014, larger shares of Mexicans, South Africans, Venezuelans, Kenyans and Colombians now say increasing use of the internet has had a positive impact on politics. But Tunisians, Lebanese and Jordanians are now less likely to say this compared with 2014.
Despite wide-ranging worries about the problems mobile phones invite, personal benefits are still widely recognized
In addition to their concerns about the impact of mobile phones on children, majorities across the 11 countries surveyed also say people should also be very worried about issues such as identity theft (an 11-country median of 66% say people should be very concerned about this), exposure to false information (64%), mobile phone addiction (62%) and harassment or bullying (59%) when using their mobile phones. Fewer are very concerned about the risk that people might lose the ability to communicate face-to-face due to mobile phone use (48%).
Yet these broader concerns often coexist with perceived benefits to users. For instance, despite widespread concerns that mobile phones might expose people to false or inaccurate information, a sizable majority of mobile phone users (79%) say their own phone has helped their ability to get news and information about important issues. Similarly, a median of 58% of mobile phone users say their devices have helped their ability to communicate face-to-face – even as a median of 48% of adults in these countries say people should be very worried about mobile phones’ effects on face-to-face communication.
Other key findings relating to the adoption and use of digital technology in these countries include:
- Majorities in each country own their mobile phone, and sharing a phone with someone else is relatively rare. A median of just 7% of adults in these countries share a mobile phone, ranging from a low of 1% of adults in Vietnam to a high of 17% in Venezuela.
- Smartphone use is higher among younger adults and those with higher education levels.5 Lebanon and Jordan are the only countries in the survey in which a majority of adults ages 50 and older – as well as a majority of those with less than a secondary education – are smartphone users. Mobile Connectivity
- Home computer and tablet access is relatively rare in these countries: A median of 34% have access to either kind of device. And a median of 27% of adults in these countries say they do not have a tablet or computer at home but do have a smartphone, ranging from a low of 18% in Venezuela to a high of 50% in Jordan.
- By a substantial margin, Facebook (used by a median of 62% of adults in these countries) and WhatsApp (used by a median of 47%) are the two most commonly used social media or messaging platforms out of the seven included in the survey. To the extent that adults use only one of these platforms, in every country that platform is either Facebook or WhatsApp.
- Some social media platforms or messaging apps are more popular in some countries than in others. For example, about one-third of Lebanese adults (34%) use the photo-sharing site Instagram. The messaging app Viber is more popular in Lebanon and Tunisia – where about one-in-five adults report using it – than elsewhere, while Jordanians stand out for their use of the photo-messaging app Snapchat (24%).
Next: 1. Use of smartphones and social media is common across most emerging economies
Large majorities in the 11 emerging and developing countries surveyed either own or share a mobile phone, and in every country it is much more common to own one’s own phone than to share it with someone else. In seven of these countries, half or more now use smartphones – and smartphone use is especially common among younger and more educated groups.
Meanwhile, access to tablets or computers is rarer. In only one country – Lebanon – does a majority (57%) have access to a working desktop, laptop or tablet computer in their household, and mobile devices play a prominent role in how people access the internet and their social networks in many of these nations.6
Most adults say they own a mobile phone; relatively few share one
Majorities of adults in each of the 11 emerging and developing countries surveyed report owning their own mobile phone. Ownership levels are highest in Vietnam, where nearly all adults (97%) own a mobile device, although about nine-in-ten or more also own one in Jordan, Tunisia, Colombia, Kenya, Lebanon and South Africa. Ownership is lowest in Venezuela, India and the Philippines, but even in these countries about seven-in-ten adults own a mobile device.
Meanwhile, an 11-country median of 11% say they do not own a mobile phone, which includes a median of 7% who say they regularly use someone else’s phone.7 But overall, phone sharing is relatively rare in most countries – ranging from just 1% in Vietnam to a high of 17% in Venezuela. (Throughout this report, phone owners and phone sharers will be grouped together and referred to as “mobile phone users.”)
Sharing tends to be more common among adults with lower levels of education.8 And in India – where women are less likely than men to own their own mobile phones – significantly more women (20%) than men (5%) report sharing a device with someone else.
Mobile phone ownership varies by age, gender and education
Across these 11 countries, mobile phone ownership (as distinct from phone sharing) tends to vary by several demographic traits, including educational attainment, gender and age.
In all countries surveyed, adults with a secondary education or higher are more likely to own their own mobile phone than are those with less than a secondary education. These educational gaps in ownership range from just 3 percentage points in Vietnam to 35 points in the Philippines. Mobile Connectivity
Majorities of both men and women own mobile phones in all of the countries surveyed. But ownership rates among women vary significantly across the countries, from a low of 56% in India to a high of 96% in Vietnam. Outside of India – where men are 28 percentage points more likely than women to own a mobile phone – gender gaps in ownership in other countries are either relatively modest (such as the 8-point differences in Kenya and Lebanon) or nonexistent, as in the case of Vietnam and the Philippines.
Most of those ages 18 to 29 report owning their own mobile phone in almost all countries surveyed. However, a slightly smaller share of younger Venezuelans – but still a majority at 65% – say they own a mobile phone. A majority of those 50 and older also report owning a mobile phone in most of the 11 countries surveyed. Only in the Philippines do fewer than half of the oldest age group own a phone (46%). Overall, younger people are more likely than older adults to own a phone in the Philippines (41 percentage points), Lebanon (27 points), India (25 points) and Mexico (24 points).
For more on how phone ownership and use varies by age, gender or education levels, see Appendix C.
Phone users cite multiple reasons for sharing, rather than owning, a mobile device
Across the countries surveyed, the 7% median of those who share, rather than own, a mobile phone cite a number of reasons for why they share their phones. About four-in-ten phone sharers in Kenya (42%), Venezuela (40%) and Tunisia (38%) say they share a phone primarily because they cannot afford their own device. Another half of Venezuelan sharers say they now share a phone because their own phone was lost, broken or stolen, as do about four-in-ten Colombians (41%) and Kenyans (41%). Not needing to use a mobile phone regularly is a commonly cited reason for sharing a phone in India (39%) and the Philippines (29%).
In India, a sizable portion of phone sharers also name another reason for sharing rather than owning their own device: They think phones are too complicated to use (26%).
Smartphones are generally the most common type of mobile device
Smartphones, or phones that can connect to the internet and run apps, are the most prevalent type of mobile device in nine of the 11 countries surveyed: A majority of adults (median of 53%) report using a smartphone. Mobile Connectivity Usage is highest in Lebanon (86%) and Jordan (85%), and lowest in India (32%).
How this survey defines different types of mobile phone users
Some general features and capabilities can help distinguish between the three broad types of mobile phones:
- Basic phones are generally the most technically limited – and most affordable – mobile phone option. These phones typically only have the ability to make voice calls or send text messages and cannot access the internet or download apps.
- Feature phones typically fall between smartphones and basic phones in terms of connectivity and price. These devices can access the internet and may offer some of the same features as smartphones, such as the ability to access social media platforms. However, they have fewer advanced capabilities than smartphones and typically do not support apps.
- Smartphones are the most advanced – and generally most expensive – type of mobile phone. These devices can connect to the internet, run a variety of apps and offer many of the same capabilities of a traditional computer.
Respondents to this survey were asked a series of questions to determine the type of mobile device they own or share with someone else. Those who indicated that their phone is a smartphone are classified as smartphone users. Those who said their mobile phone can connect to the internet – but that it is not a smartphone – are categorized as feature phone users. And those who said their phone is not a smartphone and cannot access the internet are considered to have a basic phone. Responses to each of these individual questions can be found in the topline and more information on the combined measures can be found in Appendix B.
Basic and feature phones are less popular overall, but some countries stand out for their high usage of these less digitally connected phones. In India nearly half of adults (47%) say they use a basic mobile phone that cannot connect to the internet. Sizable shares in Kenya (40%), Tunisia (37%) and Venezuela (36%) also report using a basic phone.
Feature phones are generally the least common devices in the countries surveyed, with few adults (median of 4%) saying they own or share a device that can connect to the internet but is not a smartphone. But feature phones – which offer some of the same features as smartphones, but typically cannot support apps – are popular in Mexico, where one-third of adults say they use this type of device. About one-in-five Kenyans (21%) and Colombians (17%) also use feature phones.
Smartphone use is far more common among younger and more educated adults
Younger adults lead the way in smartphone use in each of the countries surveyed. Across all 11 countries, those under 30 are much more likely to use a smartphone than those ages 50 and older. However, usage rates among 18- to 29-year-olds differ substantially by country, from nine-in-ten or more in Lebanon, Jordan and Vietnam to fewer than half of Kenyans under 30 (46%).
Lebanon and Jordan – where smartphones are widespread – stand out for being the only countries where a majority of adults ages 50 and older also report using smartphones. Still, older Lebanese and Jordanian adults are far less likely than their younger counterparts to use a smartphone.
People with higher levels of education are also more likely to use smartphones. In each country surveyed, a majority of those with a secondary education or more use smartphones. The education gap is most pronounced in India, where more educated people are 41 points more likely to use a smartphone.
In six of these countries, men are somewhat more likely than women to use smartphones. This gap is largest in India, where 40% of men use smartphones compared with 23% of women.
While smartphone users are generally younger and more educated, the opposite is true of basic phone users: People who use these more technically limited devices tend to be older and have lower levels of education.
Feature phone use doesn’t consistently vary by age or education. However, in Mexico – where one-third of the population uses a feature phone – women (38%) are more likely than men (27%) to report using this type of device.
Facebook and WhatsApp are the most widely used social platforms
Among the seven online social media platforms and messaging apps asked about on this survey, a median of 62% use Facebook. Facebook is most popular in Jordan and Lebanon, where about seven-in-ten adults say they currently use it. Although India has the smallest percentage of Facebook users (24%) of the countries surveyed, the country also has the largest net number of active Facebook users in the world.
The seven social media platforms and messaging apps in this report and why they were included
Respondents were asked about their use of seven different social media platforms and messaging apps. These platforms were chosen based on three criteria: high usage rates, input from local survey organizations and to capture a range of different types of sites with distinctive features. The seven platforms included are:
- Facebook, a social networking platform founded in 2004. As of the release date of this report, its interface is available in over 100 languages.
- WhatsApp, a messaging platform launched in 2009. The service allows users to send text messages and other media, as well as make phone and video calls. WhatsApp’s interface is available in up to 60 languages.
- Twitter, a social networking and microblogging platform founded in 2006. The Twitter interface is available in 47 languages.
- Viber, a messaging and voice over platform founded in 2010. Its interface is available in 39 languages.
- Instagram, a photo- and video-sharing platform founded in 2010. Instagram’s interface is available in up to 36 languages.
- Snapchat, a multimedia messaging platform founded in 2011. Its interface is available in 22 languages.
- Tinder, a mobile dating platform founded in 2012. It is available in over 40 languages.
For purposes of this report, people who use any one of these seven social media platforms or messaging apps are classified as “social media users.” Responses to each of these individual questions can be found in the topline (link), and more information on the combined measures can be found in Appendix B.
The messaging application WhatsApp, which was purchased by Facebook in 2014, is also one of the most widely used digital platforms, with a median of 47% saying they use it. As with Facebook, WhatsApp is most popular in Jordan and Lebanon, where about eight-in-ten or more say they currently use it. The messaging app is least popular in the Philippines and Vietnam, where very few adults use it – 4% and 2%, respectively.
Use of the other platforms included in the survey is less widespread. A median of 20% say they use the photo-sharing application Instagram – which is also owned by Facebook – while 10% or fewer report using Twitter or the messaging and photo-sharing app Snapchat. Mobile Connectivity Just 4% of adults in these countries say they use the Viber messaging app, and no more than 3% in any country use the dating app Tinder.
But some platforms are more popular in particular countries. For example, about one-third of Lebanese adults (34%) say they currently use Instagram. The messaging app Viber is most popular in Lebanon and Tunisia, where about one-in-five adults report using it. And Jordanians stand out for their use of the photo-messaging app Snapchat (24%).
Compare the rates of social media platform and messaging app usage in 11 countries around the world
% of adults who say they currently use …
Educational gaps in usage are also significant for most of these services, with people who have a secondary education or higher being more likely to use them. In Vietnam, for example, a large majority of more educated adults (85%) use Facebook, compared with 52% of those with less than a secondary education.
Majorities of adults in most countries use at least one social media platform or messaging application, but relatively few use three or more
In most of the 11 countries analyzed, a majority of adults report using at least one of the seven social media platforms or messaging apps included in this survey. This type of online activity is especially common in Lebanon, Jordan, Colombia and Mexico, where about three-quarters or more use at least one of these services.
Kenya and India are the only countries where a majority of adults do not use at least one of these social media or messaging services.
Although it is common to use at least one of these platforms, relatively few adults (median of 20%) say they currently use three or more social media platforms or messaging apps. This level of use is most common in Lebanon and Jordan, where about four-in-ten say they use three or more of these apps (42% and 38%, respectively). About three-in-ten say the same in Venezuela (31%), Colombia (29%) and Mexico (27%). People in India (9%), the Philippines (9%) and Vietnam (5%) are the least likely to report using three or more of these apps.
Among people who use just one social media platform or messaging app, Facebook and WhatsApp are most common
For adults who only use one of the social media platforms or messaging apps included in this survey, two services dominate: Facebook and WhatsApp. Single-platform users rarely report using any of the other five services included in the survey.
The dominant platform among this group of people who only use one service varies by country: Facebook is most common among single-site users in the Philippines, Vietnam, Tunisia, Venezuela and Kenya. Meanwhile, WhatsApp is most common among such users in Mexico, Colombia, Jordan, South Africa, India and Lebanon.
Kenya is the only country where a sizable share (14%) of these single-site users are using something other than Facebook or WhatsApp – in this case, mostly Snapchat (8%).
Internet use is common across most of the nations surveyed
This survey defines an “internet user” as anyone who says they use the internet, who uses at least one social media platform or messaging application, or who owns or shares a feature phone or smartphone. Majorities of adults in every country surveyed except India are internet users.
Internet use is most widespread in Jordan and Lebanon, where 87% of adults in each country go online. About eight-in-ten adults also go online in the Latin American countries of Mexico (81%), Colombia (80%) and Venezuela (77%).
India has the smallest share of internet users of the countries surveyed: Just 38% of Indians use the internet. However, a majority of Indians ages 18 to 29 (55%) go online, as do a majority of Indians with a secondary degree or more (67%).
How this survey defines ‘internet users’
The definition of an internet user used in this report seeks to capture the many ways in which people are likely to go online. In addition to asking people directly whether they use the internet, people are also classified as internet users if they:
- Use any of the seven major social media or messaging services included in the survey (Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Viber and Tinder).
- Use a smartphone or feature phone that can connect to the internet.
Responses to each of these individual questions can be found in the topline (link), and more information on the combined measures can be found in Appendix B.
In eight of these countries, gender differences in internet use are either nonexistent (in the case of Colombia, the Philippines, Venezuela and Vietnam) or modest (in the case of Jordan, Lebanon, Mexico and South Africa). These differences are most prominent in India, Kenya and Tunisia, although majorities of both men and women in Tunisia and Kenya go online. Mobile Connectivity In India, 46% of men and just 29% of women use the internet. Mobile Connectivity To some extent, these gender gaps in internet use coincide with differences in smartphone use, as men in both countries are more likely to use smartphones than women.
For more on how use of the internet and of specific social media platforms and messaging apps vary by age, gender or education, see Appendix C.
Home computer or tablet access is relatively rare in most countries
In most of the countries surveyed, relatively few people (median of 34%) have access to a desktop computer, laptop or tablet in their household. The exception is Lebanon, where a majority of adults (57%) say they have access to such a device. Mobile Connectivity As with most other measures of technological connectedness, those who are younger and more educated are generally more likely to have access to a computer or tablet at home.
Anywhere from 28% (in India) to 52% (in Jordan) of adults in these countries use the internet in some fashion but do not have a computer or tablet at home. And a median of 27% of adults in these countries say they do not have a tablet or computer at home but do have a smartphone, ranging from a low of 18% in Venezuela to a high of 50% in Jordan.