For most of this year we’ve worked in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation to develop a new research report on the digital lives of low-income people in three countries – Ghana, Kenya & Uganda. This has been a mix of primary focus group research and follow up sessions with individual participants, to get a sense of what their ‘digital day’ looks like.
We are in awe of and influenced by many previous sector-specific studies, from the excellent Bankable Frontiers team and their Porfolios of the Poor work to the research portfolio of Research ICT Africa, Balancing Act Africa, Vital Wave and many others. But we wanted to write a report that was as wide-ranging as possible – that didn’t seek to ask what mHealth, mEducation or whatever looked like, but was just curious to answer the question of what users are doing on-line.
We hope we’ve captured this in the Report. The title says it all – we’re deeply curious about what digital lives look like, how people get on-line, what motivates them to do so, and how digital is starting to weave in and out of user’s physical lives. There are some unsurprising things in the research – Facebook usage dominates, for instance – but there are some things that intrigued us, such as the concept of ‘visual CVs’ where users post a picture of themselves performing their job on social media with their phone number beneath, to act as an ersatz LinkedIn.
After chapter one’s executive summary & introduction, the report is broken down into four sections; chapter two is a synthesis of expert interviews to discuss how internet access is changing in the era of drones and balloons, chapter three introduces the findings from the user research in a narrative form, chapter four introduces our ‘digital day’ graphic and looks at the individual user research, and the appendix is a substantial literature review.
We hope the document is a useful resource – the literature review alone is exhaustive – and at 200 pages overall we apologise in advance if it feels daunting. But we really wanted to understand the users’ digital lives, the context of how they use digital products, and what benefits and problems they bring. Hopefully this is a document that it’s as useful to dip in and out of as it is to read in one (lengthy) sitting.
Over the next months we’ll have blog postings from the Caribou Digital authors of the report – Jonathan Donner, Emrys Schoemaker, Savita Bailur and Chris Locke – as well as context on the digital day graphic from Corin Langton and Kathryn Virji, our excellent design partners at The Langtons. So keep checking in on the blog and our newsletter to see these, and please do tell us what you think of it. We hope to continue the research in 2016, focusing on new countries and demographics, and starting to use our new quantitative tools to further flesh out our understanding of that most important question – just what is it everyone is doing on their phones all day?