10 Things new internet users often say

In 2018, we began speaking with New Internet Users (NIUs) in India, Mexico, Indonesia, Brazil, and Nigeria to learn about their technological perceptions, aspirations, and digital learning curves. We developed deep rapport with 73 NIUs, keeping in touch throughout their first year of smartphone usage. Here’s what we’ve heard them say.

  1. So many people I know use a smartphone, but I’m not sure it’s for someone like me. Now that I have one, I’m proud to fit in with others around me.
  2. I’m not sure if the internet will help me reach my goals. I want to make more money, buy nicer things, and ensure the success of my children.
  3. It can be hard to understand the internet and smartphones—I’m not very literate, and there’s so much to read and type. It’s intimidating. Photos and videos are much easier.
  4. It’s easier for me to learn visually. For example, I know to hit the red button to hang up a call.But there’s so many new things to understand—it’s overwhelming.
  5. The internet and smartphones are mostly in English. I think the language can be changed, but I don’t want to mess something else up. I can’t afford to break it.
  6. Why is the phone so abstract? I like apps that use real world images and simple, natural language. By the way, what is an account?
  7. I don’t use the internet to learn how to use my phone. My friends and family decide what to teach and what not to teach me. I’m thankful for that, but also don’t know if they taught me the best way.
  8. I don’t explore outside of what I’m shown. I don’t know what most other apps and buttons do, so I often avoid them. Maybe what I know now is enough for me.
  9. I only feel confident using the phone after lots of practice, but I don’t have 2-3 hours every day to learn. Basic tasks aren’t basic, at least for me. How do others do it so easily?
  10. I want to do and learn more things on the phone by myself. It feels good to not depend on other people, but right now it’s too complicated to figure out.