Africa: Next Generation of African Teachers Will Be Key Telco Customer Segment - Some Surprises With New Survey Findings

17 January 2020

London — The next generation of African teachers should be a key customer segment for telcos as they are already likely to be connected with smartphones and buying their own bandwidth. Russell Southwood talks to Jim Teicher, CyberSmart Africa about the findings of a survey he conducted among new teachers fresh out of teacher training colleges in Senegal.

The survey was carried among students at teacher training colleges in 2019 with an individual consultant on hand to answer questions from those filling them in. There were 300 respondents - 66% were male and 34% female - with those responding coming from all over Senegal.

"These are tomorrow's teachers who over the next few years will be in 'the trenches' serving one of the fastest growing group of young people on the planet. We need to look at their capacity and address them in the way they communicate."

One of the most surprising findings from the study is that 66% pay for their own bandwidth with 34% seeking out free Wi-Fi hot-spots. More predictably, only 20% have fixed internet at home, something which again could provide a commercial opportunity.

Again surprisingly, most respondents buy bandwidth ahead rather than on a daily basis:

Monthly Pass: 58%

Weekly Pass: 19%

Daily Pass: 15%

The majority of teacher respondents are daily internet users:

More than once a day: 75%

Once per day: 11%

Several times per week: 2%

54% go online for between 16-60 minutes per session. The respondents are also spending significant amounts on a monthly basis on buying data:

>US$1: 5%

US$1-2: 10%

US$2-4: 56%

US$4-9: 22%

US$9-17: 6%

<US$17: 1%

So what are they doing online several times a day? The most popular app is WhatsApp (85%), followed by Facebook (only 42%), YouTube (23%) and Instagram (10%). Uses are all fairly familiar: searching, communicating with friends, family and colleagues, reading news/entertainment content and exchanging documents.

There is a strong contrast between the almost minimal use of e-commerce and current use of mobile money. 2% sold products online but only 1% bought products online. This contrasts sharply with mobile money payments: electricity bill (67%), water bill (40%), phone bill (21%), store purchase (17%) and other purchases (7%).

In terms of devices, the findings are again a surprise. 89% own a smartphone, 64% a laptop, 27% featurephones, 8% tablets and 3% desktop PCs. 32% said that they would like their next device purchase to be a tablet.

So where do these smartphones come from? 58% are purchased new and 22% are received as a gift. 88% of teacher smartphone users make use of the device throughout the day compared with only 33% of featurephone users.

"With the help of the telecoms ecosystem and e-publishers, teachers' digital life can propel a country forward through impacting education in positive ways. Collectively teachers may have more capacity to do this than the Ministries of Education they work for." Also as potential telco customers, "teachers represent the largest stable group of wage earners and their numbers will grow as the population continues to increase."

The key challenge will be online security. Only 29% are more or less at ease or totally at ease sharing information about their professional life online:"We could do a great deal more to build teachers' confidence, both in the classroom and online."

Teicher wants to build a social network for teachers in French and English in 2020 and is looking forward to getting traction from providing a mixture of content and networking functions.

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