IGF 2018 WS #404 Who is an internet user? Brazilian study based on indicators


Organizer 1: Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Organizer 2: Technical Community, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Policy question: how do we define who is an internet user?

In the context of producing indicators regarding internet use, and in light of internationally adopted frameworks, the definition of an internet users is being challenged by the rise of mobile-exclusive users who don't recognize their applications or platforms as internet use.

This is specially relevant on understanding exclusion, and raises new questions regarding what using internet even means, how to capture and analyze this dimension of internet use, and what it means for policies aimed at digital inclusion.


Flash Session - 30 Min


The speaker has been coordinating the survey project in Brazil for the past six years, and has actively contributed to the international debate on the concepts used at the survey for the past three years. The session will draw from this expertise, both local and international, to gather feedback and raise awareness to the policy issue.


Though it is designed as a flash session with only one speaker, it is interesting to bring attention to the fact that the speaker is a young researcher coming from a developing country perspective.

Since its first edition, the ICT Households survey in Brazil, conducted by the Regional Center for Studies on the Development of Information Society (CETIC.br) has followed the framework recommended by ITU in the Manual for Measuring ICT Access and Use by Households and Individuals (ITU, 2014). The core definitions of the survey, such as the concept of Internet use, definition
of computers, and other key indicators come from this framework. Created in 2005 and updated in 2014, the ITU manual updated the definition of Internet users as individuals who had used the Internet in the three months prior to the interview. Adherence to this
internationally agreed on methodology enables the possibility of comparisons with other countries that follow the same model.

In the last few years, however, the indicator that measures Internet use on mobile phones has begun growing at an accelerated pace. Comparing the indicators “Internet users” (comparable internationally) and “Internet users on mobile phones” (developed locally) in the period that saw mobile Internet use grow in Brazil (2011 to 2015), it is possible to infer that there is a higher proportion of people using internet on a mobile phone in Brazil than using Internet at all. How is that even possible?

Throughout this period, accelerated growth has been noted in the indicator for Internet use on mobile phones, showing larger proportions for individuals with lower levels of education, in rural areas, and in older age groups. The hypotheses to explain the mentioned difference range from the intrinsic characteristics of the methods used for collecting data on the field (as in the case of
the structure of the questionnaire and its application) to the effects of the new dynamics of ICT use, which cause, in some demographic profiles, difficulties in understanding the concept of the Internet. Explanation of this phenomenon requires, however, more comprehensive studies and the use of supplementary methodological approaches. For certain demographic profiles the consideration of new ways of measuring Internet use proved to be relevant.

The idea of the session is to explain this case and discuss with the audience the implications for the ecosystem of this new kind of user.

Discussion Facilitation: 

The session aims to present the brazilian case using half the time, and provide the other half to engage with the audience, both local and online, discussing their local contexts and experiences with the issue.

Online Participation: 

Online moderator will read questions from online participation, the session moderator will provide time and will be in close communication with the online moderator,

Contact Information

United Nations
Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

Villa Le Bocage
Palais des Nations,
CH-1211 Geneva 10

igf [at] un [dot] org
+41 (0) 229 173 678