According to Jumia Mobile Report 2018, Nigeria has a mobile penetration of 84 percent against the African rate of 82 percent. This is an increase on the 2016 mobile penetration rate which stood at 53 percent the report noted. It was also highlighted that out of the ca 162 million mobile subscribers in 2017, only 21 million use smartphones. It also identified that access to affordable smartphones entering the Nigeria market resulted in a 31 percent year-on-year growth in smartphone uptake between 2016 and 2017.
On the other hand, a disparity in ownership of mobile phone between men and women was highlighted by the same report stating that there were more male than female mobile phone shoppers in Nigeria; while men accounted for 63 percent of mobile phone shoppers, women were 37 percent. The GSMA 2018 report on mobile gender gap identified some factors that limit uptake of mobile phones among women such as handset cost/SIM cost, reading difficulty, credit cost and network coverage. This suggests that women are less likely to own phones than men in Nigeria. The report also noted that there is a significant gender gap in the usage of mobile phone especially for mobile Internet. It estimated that women are, on average, 26 percent less likely to use mobile Internet than men. Some factors such as data cost, social norms, network coverage and access to Internet-enabled phones were identified as barriers to mobile Internet use among women.
In the Northeast and Northwest regions of Nigeria, certain social mores have been identified as barriers to women ownership of mobile phones. Religion and culture forge some of the societal norms that exclude women from participating in mobile technology in the northern part of Nigeria, where it is believed that women should not engage in social communication with other men except their husband or close relatives. This discourages ownership of mobile phones among women in the region.
In addition, Pew Research report on mobile phone ownership in Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, South Africa, Kenya and Uganda, identified text messaging is the most common usage of mobile phones among men, women, youths and the elderly. This is followed by taking pictures and making videos. However, this is where the similarity ends. It is estimated that only about one-third use their phones to look up information about politics (35 percent), health and medicine (32 percent) or consumer goods and prices (30 percent). Men are also more likely than women to engage in two of these three information-seeking behaviours: getting news and information about politics and looking up consumer information.
Smartphones are mainly used to access the Internet and social media. This can be inferred from the number of Internet users which shot to 98 million in 2017 with 65 percent penetration in comparison with 53 percent in 2016. This figure includes those accessing the Internet through GSM, CDMA and VoIP. For instance, out of the 21 million smartphone users, 17 million are active on social media through their phones. While social media penetration in Africa is estimated at 14 percent, in Nigeria it stands at nine percent. However, this figure does not account for those accessing social media through a desktop computer, laptop or tablet, but only through smartphones. According to Pew Global Attitude survey, 80 percent of smartphone owners in Nigeria use their phones for text messaging, 65 percent to take pictures or video, 44 percent to access social media, 34 percent to make or receive payments, 17 percent to look for or apply for job, 44 percent to get news about politics, 32 percent to get news about health information and 33 percent to get information about prices.
While smartphones have aided information dissemination through social media platforms, their use brings also challenges. One of these is the spreading of misinformation and fake news on social media platforms. The Nigerian government has acknowledged the growing challenge of misinformation on social media platforms with the launch of a national campaign against fake news. It is anticipated that in the run-up to the 2019 general elections, the country would witness a deluge of misinformation/disinformation/fake news on social media.