While texting, surfing the Web and checking in via Facebook has become a routine part of life in the United States, emerging nations are also rapidly adopting mobile and Internet technology, according to a report released this week by Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project.
Cellphone use is particularly widespread. People in the 24 nations Pew researched, such as Lebanon and Malaysia, use their cellphones for many purposes, including taking pictures and texting. Some use their phones to figure out what is happening in the political world, find the price or availability of an item and get health information for their family or themselves. In certain areas of Africa, such as Senegal and South Africa, people use their cellphones to receive or make payments. Richard Wike, director of global attitudes research at Pew, says the evidence from Kenya is particularly interesting because “it really shows how technology can play a role in people’s lives.”
“In Kenya, 68 percent of cellphone owners are now using their mobile devices to make or receive payments. So cellphones are playing a big role in the economic lives of Kenyans. And neighboring Uganda is not far behind — 50 percent of cellphone owners there use their phones for payments," Wike said.
The study found that the use of cellphones is widespread partly because landlines are rare in countries like Kenya. Of the 24 countries, 23 percent of people have a functional landline in their house. Only 1 percent of people in Kenya and Ghana have a landline.
Though the majority of people in the nations surveyed still do not have Internet access, Pew reports the Internet has made “tremendous inroads."
"A significant number of people in these nations say they use the Internet on a daily basis, including roughly half of those polled in Lebanon, Russia and Argentina. At lease 20 percent use the Internet daily in 15 of the 24 nations surveyed," the report says.
Researchers at Pew also found that once people are online, they like to connect using social media networks. According to the study, most Internet users in 21 of the 24 countries use social media, including websites like Twitter and Facebook. People use these networking sites to connect with family and friends and share their views on popular culture, religion and politics.
The study also found that young people are the predominate users of the Internet, social media and cellphones.
“It’s clear that social media and other communication technologies are changing the lives of people in emerging nations, and young people are at the leading edge of these changes," Wike said. "In nearly all of the countries we surveyed, young people are especially likely to go online, use social networking sites, own a cellphone, and own a smartphone."
Wike also said that the use of social media in other countries may have an impact on how they view the United States. Wike said Pew knows "that young people around the world are more likely to use these technologies, and young people are also more likely to have a positive attitude toward the U.S."
"Young people give the U.S. higher overall ratings and they are also more likely to embrace aspects of American soft power, such as American popular culture. Certainly, the Internet and social networking sites may be one place that young people are learning about and sharing opinions about the U.S," Wike said.