Technology hype versus enduring uses: A longitudinal study of Internet use among early adopters in an African city

Jenna Burrell


This paper considers a set of early adopters of the Internet first encountered by the author in the Internet cafés of Accra, Ghana. The analysis draws from long–term ethnographic research and paired interviews with key informants separated by a six–year interval to identify and explain different trajectories of changing use of the Internet over time. Changes in use followed one of three general patterns: (1) intensification, (2) reorientation, or (3) discontinuance. These changes were linked to the life circumstances of individual users, their immediate social context of use, as well as broader societal shifts in the perception of the Internet in Ghana. This article critiques an implicit theory of technology in society in socio–economic development work targeting low–income countries like Ghana by showing how assessments of technology’s efficacy by users are culturally shaped and prone to change over time.


Internet; Internet cafes; urban

Full Text:



A Great Cities Initiative of the University of Illinois at Chicago University Library.

© First Monday, 1995-2019. ISSN 1396-0466.