APIC: Survey Report, 9/7/97

APIC: Survey Report, 9/7/97

APIC: Survey Report

Date distributed (ymd): 970907

APIC Document

This posting contains a summary of the results from the July 1 survey of the Africa Policy Electronic Distribution List,including changes APIC is considering as a result of suggestions made by respondents. The full report (34K) is available on the Web at

A more detailed explanation of the survey methodology and methods of analysis is available in the report of last year's survey:

If you do not have Web access, you can retrieve the full report (or other documents on the Web) using a web-to-email gateway such as agora, w3mail or getweb. Send the appropriate command to the gateway server, in the text of your e-mail message. For example,

For, use the command:


For, use the command:

get -t




Africa Policy Electronic Distribution List Reader Survey Analysis, 1997 Survey

September, 1997

The survey revealed very substantial continuity with last year's results. The respondents are a diverse group resident in all parts of the US and 35 other countries, including 11% in African countries. The proportion outside the US increased slightly, from 24% to 30%. The proportion female also increased slightly, from 33% to 37%. As in 1996, respondents are older than the average Internet user, and fairly evenly split among the age ranges of 20 to 35, 36 to 50, and over 50. As in 1996, over 75% hold advanced degrees. Over 80% (as compared to 78% in 1996) were born in or have worked in or visited Africa.

In terms of primary institutional affiliation, the pattern also remained the same as in 1996, the largest proportions being affiliated with educational institutions (43%) and non-governmental organizations (19%), with significant representation as well from government, religious, media, and commercial sectors.

On average, respondents read carefully 4 out of 10 documents and skim 4 more. They rate the quality as 4.4 on a scale from 1 to 5. Eighty-eight percent said the frequency of document distribution was "about right,"while 81% said the average document length was "about right." Roughly a third said they sometimes, often, or always contacted policy-makers after receiving a document that called for such action; 57% said they sometimes, often, or always pass on such documents. On average, for any given document, respondents reported passing it on to 2.5 other people.

The total number of direct recipients on the list was up from 1159 in July 1996 to 1559 in July 1997, but indirect distribution, particularly through the Africa-N listserv, was less consistent in 1997. A rough guestimate of the total number receiving any given document in mid-1997 came to 6600, as compared to 6000 to 6100 in mid-1996.

Survey distribution and response

A 26-question survey was distributed by e-mail on July 1, 1997 to the 1568 addresses on the list as of that date, including nine addresses identifiable as mailing lists or conferences rather than individuals (1164 in 1996). By August 16, 1997, 370 completed surveys were received from respondents on the list, as well as 75 from respondents receiving the postings indirectly.

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 measures, however, which indicate that respondents are not likely to differ in major ways from non-respondents on most variables in the survey, with the important exception of how likely they are to redistribute documents they receive.

List Growth

Both the survey and the archive of addresses directly on the list confirm that growth of the list continued, but at a slower rate than in previous years. In 1997 54% of subscribers have been receiving the documents more than one year, as compared to 36% in 1996.

Between the end of June 1996 and the end of June 1997, the number of addresses on the list grew from 1171 to 1569, an increase of 34%. This was only half the percentage increase between June 1995 and June 1996, however.

Background Variables (selected tables -- see full report for more)

Table 4: Country of Residence

[Note: this and following tables best read in non-proportional

font such as Courier.]


USA 281 64


UK 17 4
























CONGO (K)* 1 0

EGYPT* 1 0





PERU* 1 0


SPAIN* 1 0

U.A.E.* 1 0

Total: 438 100

* Newly represented in 1997 survey responses

Although the largest percentage of recipients are located in the USA, there are significant numbers from other countries. Grouping by continent, we can note that 70% are located in North America, 16% in Europe, 11% in Africa, and 3% in other continents. Africa shows a modest increase from 7% in 1996, as does Europe (13% in 1996), while North America declined from 76% of the list to 70% of the list.

Within the USA, the states most heavily represented are Washington, DC, with 12.8%, California with 9.9%, and New York with 9.6%. Responses came from a total of 39 states, and from every region of the country.

Connections with Africa

Recipients of the list have very high levels of diverse connections with the African continent, as shown by percentages for the entire group of 445 respondents, as well as for the subset of 285 resident in the USA. The results varied only in minor respects from the results in 1996.

Percent born in Africa: 21.6% (19.2% among 1996 respondents)

USA residents only (285): 16.1% (1996: 14.6%)

Percent worked in Africa: 53.5% (1996 47.2%)

USA residents only (285): 54.0% (1996 49.7%)

Percent visited Africa: 41.8% (1996 42.2%)

USA residents only (285): 45.3% (1996 44.9%)

Percent born in, worked or visited Africa: 82.9% (1996 77.5%)

USA residents only (285): 82.1% (1996 77.6%)

Percent African Diaspora: 11% (1996 11.3%)

USA residents only (285): 11.9% (1996 13.6%)

Percent with Business Interests in Africa: 14.2% (1996 13.7%)

USA residents only (285): 15.8% (1996 15.7%)

Percent with Academic Interests in Africa: 55.5% (1996 55.9%)

USA residents only (285): 62.1% (1996 60.2%)

Percent with Other Professional Interests in Africa: 39.1%

(1996 42.7%)

USA residents only (285): 40.4% (1996 44.9%)

Percent with Activist Concerns about Africa: 62% (1996 66.4%)

USA residents only (285): 62.8% (1996 68.0%)

Web Access

The proportion having access to the Web increased slightly in

1997 as compared to 1996 responses, from 85.1% to 87.6%.

Opinion/Action Variables (selected -- for more detail see full


Reading Pattern

Table 8

Average Number of Documents (out of ten)

Number discarded or deleted without reading: 1.5 Number skimmed quickly: 4.0 Number read more carefully: 3.8 Number archived for later reference: 3.6 Number used for teaching or public education: 1.3


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, the same as in 1996. Better than 94% of the respondents rated the documents very good (48.2%) or good (45.9%). 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 135 comments received, the largest category (60) 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, providing summaries, or adding other additional services.

Possible Lessons from Survey

With results roughly comparable to those from 1996, the lessons to be drawn from the survey are also comparable (see last year's report for more details).

The continued good ratings and compliments are much appreciated and encouraging. At the same time, the suggestions from respondents received both last year and this have made substantial contributions to our thinking about future directions. Asking which ideas we are able to implement, and at what pace, however, poses a difficult set of questions, primarily in terms of the amount of staff time we are able to dedicate to the service.

While we have not resolved all these questions, there are several points we would like to share with you now.

(1) First, for all of you who asked for "more" material on different topics or at greater depth, and for all other readers, WE NEED YOUR HELP.

The selection of postings is determined in part by our organizational priorities and specific advocacy involvements. For example, we have given priority to coverage of the Nigeria pro-democracy movement, to the ban landmines campaign, to the debate over US trade policy, to the fragile peace process in Angola and others. Beyond that, we try to focus on topical issues with wide relevance around the continent, and to issues on which the need for response by the "international community" is being debated.

We are also limited, of course, by your overwhelming consensus that the frequency and length of documents is now "about right." Increasing the frequency or length of postings is therefore not an option.

This still leaves us quite a bit of room for improvement, in terms of a better and varied selection. But we face the constraint, in reposted material, of the pool from which we draw. While some of you say you rely on us for news, we are not a news organization, and we have no staff or offices outside Washington. We do search out documents to repost as we are able, but for the most part we rely on those that are sent to us or called to our attention.

So please help us fill our gaps. We seek critical, analytical policy or policy advocacy documents in the public domain in electronic form. We are, of course, particularly interested in increasing the proportion of documents coming directly from African sources.

If we receive material on a relevant topic that (1) has already been published or distributed, (2) is public domain, or authorized for redistribution by the author/originating organization, (3) is from a reputable source, to which we can refer people for further information (we must have organizational contact information to supply our readers), (4) is relatively short (a text file less than 20K, or less than 2500 words) and readable, including general background for those who are not specialists in the particular issue or country, (5) is timely (i.e., within the last few months), and (6) is already in electronic format, so that we don't have to retype or scan it, the chances of it showing up through our list are significantly increased. In cases where we do not receive such information, or have it called to our attention, important issues or countries are less likely to show up among our reposted documents.

We welcome documents in French or Portuguese as well as in English. However, the likelihood of reposting depends on allocating staff time for translation, which we have done only in exceptional circumstances.

We cannot, of course, guarantee to repost all documents sent to us with such a request. The wider the pool, however, the greater the chances for further improving the range and quality of documents on the list. We are also exploring the possibility of more systematically providing references to a greater number of documents than those we distribute. If a document is available on the Web, we can sometimes work in a reference in another posting even if we do not have space to repost the document itself.

(2) A second recurrent theme in your comments is the need for a summary or abstract at the beginning of each posting. You may have noticed that some recent postings, particularly those with multiple documents, have a short contents statement at the beginning. Shortly we hope to have ready a "document profile" feature that will provide such a summary for each document, as well as identification by region and primary issue area(s).

(3) There were also a number of requests, as in 1996, for services limiting postings to specific topics, regions or countries. Unfortunately the administrative burden of managing what would in effect be separate lists or sub-lists is still too great for our staff to take on (see more extended comments on this topic in last year's report). We are, however, still thinking of other ways to better satisfy this concern of some readers. The "document profile," for example, will include a standard format allowing readers to use their e-mail software's "filter" or "rule" function to sort documents easily into folders or dispose of them otherwise. We will let you know of future developments as we are able to implement them.

(4) Finally, a few readers suggested developing as well a more interactive list for discussion, feedback, sharing e-mail addresses and other information. This is definitely a direction we are interested in exploring, but one we are not ready to implement at this time. Our current judgement is that unmoderated and unfocused discussion groups of this kind tend to clog up rapidly with postings of relatively low value or from only a small number of participants, thus driving away many participants who might otherwise be interested. This is particularly the case for many potential participants in Africa with per-message or otherwise expensive e-mail costs. Moderating a discussion group responsibly, moreover, is a task which requires considerable time commitments.

As we consider the future possibilities in this regard, additional comments/suggestions from readers on this topic would be useful. What discussion lists (listservs) have you yourself found useful, that might serve as positive models? What kinds of guidelines are most likely to promote a useful and inclusive discussion? What focused topics would be priority to define for such discussions? Are there among you people with experiences (good or bad) in moderating/administering an electronic discussion group (moderated listserv) who would be willing to share your experiences with us?

We want to extend our appreciation to all of you who returned the survey. We hope you find your poster useful and the results of the survey interesting.

Survey report prepared by William Minter, Senior Research Fellow. Please send comments or inquiries on survey methodology to Information on on-line resources APIC should be aware of or suggestions for reposting should be sent to


From: Date: Sun, 7 Sep 1997 13:51:37 -0500 Subject: APIC: Survey Report

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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