Africa: Survey Report, Summary

Africa: Survey Report, Summary

Africa: Survey Report, Summary Date Distributed (ymd): 960818

Africa Policy Electronic Distribution List Reader Survey Analysis Executive Summary

A full version of this report (49K) is available in html format at

To receive an ascii version of the full report by e-mail, in two files, send a message to, containing in the first line the message: send report96

The survey itself can be found at gopher://

This posting is followed by a separate posting with APIC's comments on possible lessons to be drawn from the survey.

Survey distribution and response

A 26-question survey was distributed by e-mail on June 30, 1996 to the 1164 addresses on the list. Four weeks later, 1996, 417 completed surveys had been received. 299 were from persons receiving the postings directly, a response rate of 25.8%. 69 were from persons receiving postings through the AFRICA-N listserv, a 3.4% return rate among its 2013 subscribers.

Survey Procedures

In the most comparable survey for which a detailed report was located on-line, the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab's survey of press releases and other information distributed by the White House, the return rate, within the one week allowed for returns by the survey administrators, was 11.9% for addresses directly on the list, and 7.5% for addresses on a supplementary redistribution list. (See Roger Hurwitz and John Mallery, "Of Public Cyberspace: A Survey of Users and Distributors of Electroric White House Documents," April, 1994,

In order to increase the response rate for the Africa Policy survey, (1) a premium of a poster was offered for returning the survey, (2) there was no deadline mentioned for returning the survey (although these results are analyzed in terms of responses within the first four weeks only), (3) respondents were given the option of returning the surveys by fax or mail as well as by e-mail, and (4) all addresses that received the survey also received, 12 days later, a summary report on results to date, together with a reminder notice and an offer to send a replacement copy of the survey if the first copy had gone astray or been deleted.

The results were encouraging. The return for those directly on the list within the first week was 15.4%, as compared to the 11.9% in the White House survey. Of the 417 returns in the first month, 57 were returned by fax or post, most of which would probably not have been returned at all if these options had not been mentioned.

Representativity of the respondents

There is no conclusive way of determining if the respondents are representative of the universe of recipients, including those who did not respond to the survey. There are, however, measures that can be used to gauge the likelihood of major response biases. These show that respondents are not likely to differ in major ways from non-respondents on the variables in the survey, with the prominent exception of how likely they are to redistribute documents.

Total Readership Estimates

The known base readership is made up of 1159 direct recipients, plus 2327 receiving postings through AFRICA-N, Africa Advocacy and AFRICA-L, a total of 3486.

Estimates of additional recipients, calculated from data in the survey (see full report for details) bring the average total number of individuals receiving each document through the list to between 6100 and 6200. Since the sets of those receiving each document through redistribution are likely to differ significantly from each other, the total number of recipients during a given time period is likely to be larger than this number, by an unknown factor.

Background Variables

Ninety percent of the recipients of documents are resident in five countries (USA 71%; Canada 6%; South Africa 5%; UK 5%; and Netherlands 3%). Grouping by continent, we can note that 76% are located in North America, 13% in Europe, 7% in Africa, and 4% in other continents.

Within the USA, the states most heavily represented are Washington, DC, with 17.3%, New York with 10.9%, California with 8.5% and Massachusetts, with 8.2%. Responses to the sruvey came from a total of 38 states, and from every region of the country.


Precisely one-third of the 405 respondents answering this question (135) were female; two-thirds (270) were male. This compares to baseline demographics for Internet users in the U.S. of 33% female (O'Reilly & Associates, 1995,


No respondents at all came from the under-20 age group. The largest age group was 36 to 50 (42.5%), followed by 20 to 35 (35%) and Over 50 (22.5%). This is significantly older than estimates of age distributions from existing surveys of Internet users in U.S. and Canada.


The largest proportion of respondents (76%) hold advanced degrees. This compares to 26% of WWW users estimated by Nielsen to have post-graduate degrees, and to the 8% of the U.S. population with such degrees.

Institutional Affiliation

The largest group of respondents have a primary institutional affiliation with an educational institution (44.3%), but the remainder are widely spread among non-governmental (19.0%), governmental (8.9%), religious (8.6%), other (7.4%), media (6.7%), and commercial (5.2%)institutions.

Connections with Africa

Recipients of the list have very high levels of diverse connections with the African continent.

Percent born in Africa: 19.2%
USA residents only (294): 14.6%

Percent worked in Africa: 47.2%
USA residents only (294): 49.7%

Percent visited Africa: 42.2%
USA residents only (294): 44.9%

Percent born in, worked or visited Africa: 77.5%
USA residents only (294): 77.6%

Percent African Diaspora: 11.3%
USA residents only (294): 13.6%

Percent with Business Interests in Africa: 13.7%
USA residents only (294): 15.7%

Percent with Academic Interests in Africa: 55.9%
USA residents only (294): 60.2%

Percent with Other Professional Interests in Africa: 42.7%
USA residents only (294): 44.9%

Percent with Activist Concerns about Africa: 66.4%
USA residents only (294): 68.0%

Web Access

Although the distribution of the list is overwhelmingly by e- mail (only two respondents of the 417 said they received the documents regularly through the Web), 85.1% say they do have access to Web browser software. Among USA residents, that percentage is slightly greater, at 87.4%.

Summary Observations

In some respects, the respondents are a highly diverse group, spread over different institutional sectors and geographical areas. There are expected biases reflecting current levels of access to the Internet, particularly the underrepresentation of women, overrepresentation of North America and Europe, and the high proportion with primary affiliations with educational institutions. These proportions among list recipients can be expected to change as access continues to spread for Internet use in general.

There are also several striking results which seem to reflect instead the particular audience to which the distribution list appeals. The age range is considerably older than that for the "typical" Internet user. More than 3/4 of the list have advanced degrees. More than 3/4 have direct personal experience in Africa, including those born in, having worked in or having visited an African country. And almost 2/3 say they have activist concerns.

Opinion/Action Variables

Reading Pattern

Average Number of Documents (out of ten)

Number discarded or deleted without reading: 1.5 Number skimmed quickly: 4.3 Number read more carefully: 3.9 Number archived for later reference: 4.0 Number redistributed 1.9 Number of additional recipient/document 5.5 Number used for teaching or public education: 1.0


On a scale from 1 (very poor) to 5 (very good), the average rating by respondents of documents distributed through the list was 4.4. Better than 92% of the respondents rated the documents very good (46.9%) or good (45.7%). There was little variation in ratings by any of the background variables.

The generally positive impression given by survey answers was confirmed by the additional comments volunteered by respondents. Of 153 comments received, the largest category (70) was of comments that consisted of congratulations, praise and encouragement to "keep up the good work." The second largest group (57) was constructive suggestions for improvement, by, for example, providing coverage of additional topics or countries, filtering the list, shortening the postings or providing summaries, or reducing the proportion of U.S.-specific information.


Among the 402 who answered this question, 88.1% said that the frequency of documents distributed was "about right."


Among the 400 answering this question, a substantial majority (76.2%) were of the view that the average length of documents distributed was "about right." However, a significant minority (20.5%) rated document length as "too long."


Two questions asked specifically about what action recipients took when receiving a document such as an action alert calling for contacting officials.

Of 397 respondents answering the question about contacting policy-makers, 243 (61.2%) said they never or almost never did so, while 154 (38.8%) said they did so sometimes, often, or always. Among USA residents only, 55% said they never or almost never contacted policy-makers, while 45% said they did so sometimes, often, or always.

Of 403 respondents answering the question about passing on action alerts, 189 (46.9%) said they never or almost never did so, while 214 (53.1%) said they did so sometimes, often, or always. The percentages did not differ significantly among USA and non-USA residents.

Possible Lessons from Survey

See next posting, also available on-line at gopher://


Message-Id: <> From: Date: Sun, 18 Aug 1996 15:23:34 -0500 Subject: Africa: Survey Report, Summary

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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