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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

APIC: Web Visitor Survey

APIC: Web Visitor Survey
Date distributed (ymd): 991121
APIC Document

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: Continent-Wide
Summary Contents:
This posting contains an analysis of responses to a survey on the Africa Policy Web Site, from more than 9,000 visitors who filled in the survey between June 1997 and mid-August 1999. The survey shows that the web site reaches a very different audience than the e-mail electronic distribution list -- including many new to African issues. In particular, web visitors filling out the survey are on average much younger and have far fewer already existing connections with Africa than subscribers to the distribution list. The largest institutional sector represented is the educational sector, including a significant number of secondary school teachers and students.

We invite those of you among our e-mail subscribers who never or rarely visit the site to check it out, if you have not done so recently. We predict you will find it a useful resource when you need to locate information on African issues on the web (start with our own search page at; or use the regional or thematic pages to find a host of additional sources). Perhaps even more important, you can refer the site to others who are less informed and less familiar with African issues than you are but who are searching for resources for themselves or their students.

A more detailed version of this analysis is available at:

Previous reports from annual surveys of e-mail distribution list subscribers can be found at:

+++++++++++++++++end profile++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Africa Policy Web Site
Reader Survey Analysis
September 1999

A reader survey form first placed on the web site in June 1997
( has proved to be
(1) a highly effective tool in eliciting reader feedback and,
(2) through offer of a free Africa's Regions poster, also effective in attracting new visitors to the site and prospects for other APIC information services.

The number of visitors filling in the survey grew modestly in 1997 and the first half of 1998, averaging a little more than three a day in 1997 and almost five a day in the first six months of 1998. In August 1998, however, the site's offer of a "free poster" was discovered by the "freebies" community on the internet. With links to our site appearing on many of these sites (sometimes as "freebie of the day" or "best poster offer"), the demand for posters -- and the influx of new visitors to the site -- grew in rapid and sometimes unpredictable spurts. The number filling in the survey averaged almost 15 a day in the last six months of 1998 and more than 20 a day in 1999. By fall 1999 the average was fluctuating between 15 a day and 20 a day.

This report analyzes survey returns both in terms of visitor demographics and evaluation of the web site and in terms of the survey's free poster offer as a means of outreach to new constituencies. With the rise of the links to "freebie" sites, a higher proportion of survey respondents were attracted simply by the offer and were first-time visitors. At times, the demand grew so rapidly as to indicate abuse, which was identified and protected against by new software checks on the visitors to ensure that they did indeed visit pages on the site before filling in the survey. The fact that the site was widely publicized on "freebie" sites in Russia and other former Soviet bloc countries introduced a further distortion.

For the purpose of analysis, therefore, the respondents were divided into three groups. First, Eastern Europe (including Russia), clearly not representative of visitors to the site as identified by web hit logs, was excluded for separate analysis on a later occasion. The remaining responses were divided into first-time visitors and repeat visitors.

Unlike the annual surveys of the e-mail distribution list (1996-1999), the web survey is unlikely to be a representative subset of visitors to the site. Results from the web survey represent only the respondents themselves -- a substantial fraction of the visitors, and arguably the most interested rather than purely casual visitors -- but not a majority of those seeing the site.

For analysis of the core constituency to which the site appeals, the relevant subgroup is repeat visitors. From June 1997 through mid-August 1999, there were 2,596 survey responses in this group.

Africa Policy Web Site Core Constituency

1. Overview

It is notable that there is relatively small overlap between the audience identified by respondents to the annual survey of the Africa Policy Electronic Distribution List and that identified by respondents to the web survey. Only 5.5% of these repeat visitors to the web site said they subscribed to the Africa Policy Electronic Distribution list. Even if some of these subscribe to the list after filling out their web survey, this would hardly change the conclusion that those reached by the web and those reached by e-mail are quite distinct groups of people. Similarly, the e-mail survey revealed that a significant fraction of subscribers (approximately 75%) never or very rarely visit the web site, although more than 90% of them do have access to the web.

This reinforces APIC's strategic decision to present the same information through both e-mail and the web, in order to reach larger audiences than is possible using either vehicle alone.

Please note that the data discussed below is for the full period June 1997 through mid-August 1999, and that the percentages therefore indicate averages for that period.

2. Countries and Continents of Residence

Three-quarters of the core constituency of the web site is in the USA and Canada. Among African countries, only South Africa, in sixth place with a bit over 1% of the survey responses, ranks among the top 25 in repeat visitors filling in the survey. The European country most widely represented is the Netherlands with more than 4%, followed by the UK with 3%.

Nevertheless, there is a wide range of countries represented, including 16 African countries in addition to South Africa, 13 other countries in the Americas, 20 countries in Europe (not including 19 Eastern European countries excluded from this section of the analysis), and 23 countries in the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific. Altogether, this core constituency includes respondents from 75 countries (again not including the 19 Eastern European countries).

Table 1: Regions of Residence of survey respondents (excluding Eastern Europe)

Region              Number              Percent

USA/Canada          1955                75%
W. Europe            353                14%
Asia/Pacific         163                 6%
Africa                66                 2.5%
Other America         59                 2.3%

This shows a significant contrast with the pattern for the e-mail Africa Policy Electronic Distribution List, for which in 1999 the proportion of respondents in Africa reached 12.5% and the proportion in the USA and Canada was 72%.

Table 2: Countries of Residence, in order by number of survey respondents

COUNTRY                            Number              Percent

USA                                  1824                70.26
CANADA                                131                 5.05
NETHERLANDS                           114                 4.39
UK                                     69                 2.66
AUSTRALIA                              42                 1.62
SOUTH AFRICA                           34                 1.31
BELGIUM                                29                 1.12
GERMANY                                25                 0.96
INDONESIA                              23                 0.89
SWEDEN                                 17                 0.65
ITALY                                  15                 0.58
BRAZIL                                 15                 0.58

and under 15 each for New Zealand, Mexico, France, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Philippines, Denmark, Scotland, Israel, India, Malaysia, Argentina, Portugal, Kenya, Ireland, Switzerland, Singapore, Peru, Malta, Uzbekistan, Trinidad and Tobago, Mauritius, Kazakhstan, China, Austria, Uganda, Pakistan, Greece, Finland, Ethiopia, Colombia, Chile, Zambia, Venezuela, South Korea, Hong Kong, Egypt, Cyprus, Cote D'Ivoire, Tunisia, Thailand, Tanzania, Syria, St. Croix, Spain, Senegal, Namibia, N. Ireland, Mozambique, Liberia, Lebanon, Jordan, Japan, Iran, Ghana, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Cambodia, Burundi, Bolivia, Bermuda,Bahrain, Angola

3. Connections with Africa

As shown in Table 3, even these repeat visitors to the web site were a group with much less Africa experience and connections than the subscribers to the e-mail distribution list. Fourteen percent were born in Africa, as compared to 21% of the list subscribers. Fifteen percent had worked in Africa, as compared to 49% of the list subscribers. Twenty percent had visited Africa, as compared to 43% of the list subscribers. Only 46% said they had activist concerns, as compared to 60% of the list subscribers. The proportions saying they had business or academic interests, however, was in each case slightly greater than those for the list subscribers.

Table 3: Connections with Africa

Connection          Web Survey          E-mail Survey
                    Repeat Visitors     1999 (percent)

Born in Africa           14.2           21.1
Worked in Africa         14.8           48.8
Visited Africa           20.3           42.6
Born in, worked in or
visited Africa           37.2           80.6
African Diaspora          8.7           12.3
African Diaspora or born
in Africa                19.6           31.2
Business interests       15.1           14.3
Academic interests       55.2           52.8
Other professional
interests                25.2           35.4
Activist concerns        46.0           59.8

4. Other Demographic Characteristics

Repeat visitors to the web site were strikingly younger than subscribers to the e-mail list. List subscribers were roughly divided into thirds in the age ranges 20 to 35, 36 to 50, and over 50, with almost none under 20. Web visitors, however, included 15% under 20 and only 6% over 50 (see table 4).

Table 4: Age

 AGE          Percent                   Percent
          (repeat web visitors)    (1999 list survey)

 Under 20       15%                     less than 0.5%
 20 to 35       56%                     29%
 36 to 50       23%                     41%
 Over 50         6%                     30%

In terms of sex, repeat visitors to the web site were 49% female, as compared to only 44% of the subscribers to the distribution list.

As would be expected from the age profile, the educational level completed among the web visitors was also very distinct from list subscribers. 75% of the list subscriber survey respondents held advanced degrees, 24% more held college degrees, and only 1% reported secondary level schooling. Among repeat web visitors, however, 33% held advanced degrees, 42% college degrees, and 25% secondary school level only.

The range of institutional affiliations of web visitors and list subscribers also differed, although not so dramatically as the age and education profiles.

Table 5: Institutional Affiliation

Institution         Percent                  Percent
               (repeat web visitors)    (1999 list survey)

Education           50%                      43%
NGO                 13%                      21%
Business            13%                       7%
Government           8%                       8%
Media                3%                       3%
Religious            5%                       12%
Other                7%                       6%

5. Evaluation of Web Site

Among the repeat visitors responding to the survey, the average ratings for both quality and accessibility of the web site was in each case 4.2 on a five-point scale in which "good" is counted as 4 and "very good" is counted as 5. This is almost identical with the ratings given documents by subscribers to the electronic distribution list.

Respondents were also close to list subscribers in saying that in the case of documents calling for action they contacted policymakers (34% doing so at least "sometimes", as compared with 38% for list subscribers) or passed on the documents to others (49% doing so at least sometimes, as compared to 52% for list subscribers).

These numerical ratings are probably less revealing than the comments by approximately one-fifth of those who filled in the survey as repeat visitors (see full report cited above for citations).

B. First-Time Visitors

The number of survey responses from first-time visitors, from June 1997 through mid-August 1999, totals 6,411. The utility of the responses as a evaluation of the site or for analysis of the demographic profile of even of first-time visitors is very doubtful, given that a large number are coming to the site specifically in order to get a free poster. It is better conceived as an analysis of prospects.

In order to protect against abuse, however, a new feature using Javascript was introduced at the end of June, to ensure that visitors take a tour of the site before being allowed to fill out the survey. Earlier, in 1998, a software feature (also using Javascript) was introduced to block submissions from other sites (including several in Russia) that had copied the survey already filled out in order to allow their users to submit the survey without ever visiting our site at all.

1. Regions of Residence

Table 6: Regions of Residence of survey respondents (excluding Eastern Europe)

Region              Repeat Visitors     First-time Visitors

USA/Canada          75%                 85%
W. Europe           14%                  8%
Asia/Pacific         6%                  4%
Africa               2.5%                1.4%
Other America        2.3%                0.7%

First-time visitors filling out the web survey are even more likely than repeat visitors to come from the USA or Canada. This is probably a result of the fact that the "freebie" site phenomenon is still primarily limited to North America, Western Europe and Eastern Europe.

2. Countries of Residence

Table 7: Top Countries of Residence, in order by number

 COUNTRY        % of Repeat Visitors    % of 1st-time Visitors

 USA                     70.26                 80.1
 CANADA                   5.05                 4.9
 NETHERLANDS              4.39                 2.5
 UK                       2.66                 2.3
 AUSTRALIA                1.62                 1.7
 SOUTH AFRICA             1.31                 0.7
 BELGIUM                  1.12                 0.7
 GERMANY                  0.96                 0.5
 INDONESIA                0.89                 0.5

Countries represented in the first-time visitor survey respondents, with less than 0.5% of the total respondents, also included 19 additional African countries* and 47 additional non-African countries.

3. Connections with Africa

Table 8 shows that as expected, the first-time visitors among the survey respondents have on average fewer connections with Africa than do the repeat visitors, and much less than the subscribers to the e-mail list. This means that the poster offer to the survey is reaching out to constituencies which include a significant number with new or limited interest in the continent. The relatively high proportion indicating an academic interest, together with other evidence from the addresses and comments, indicates that many of these respondents are teachers and secondary-school students seeking information for their classrooms.

Table 8: Connections with Africa,
Comparison of web survey respondents and e-mail survey respondents

Connection    First-time (%) Repeat (%) E-mail 1999 (%)

Born in Africa       6.4      14.2           21.1
Worked in Africa     6.0      14.8           48.8
Visited Africa      11.2      20.3           42.6
Born in, worked in
or visited Africa   19.5      37.2           80.6
African Diaspora     4.6       8.7            12.3
African Diaspora
or born in Africa   10.2      19.6           31.2
Business interests   8.4      15.1           14.3
Academic interests  47.2      55.2           52.8
Other professional
interests           16.6      25.2           35.4
Activist concerns   36.9      46.0           59.8

4. Other Demographic Characteristics

The age distribution of first-time visitors was roughly similar to that of repeat visitors, showing a similar dominance of the age ranges 35 and under. In terms of sex, the first-time visitors were 59% female, perhaps indicating the prominence of teachers (including home-school teachers) among those visiting the site specifically in order to get the poster. The educational level completed among first-time visitors was also somewhat lower than among repeat visitors, with 24% having advanced degrees and 40% having college degrees.

First-time visitors were also more likely than repeat visitors to come from the educational sector (see Table 9).

Table 9: Institutional Affiliation

Institution         Percent             Percent
               (repeat visitors)    (first-time visitors)

Education           50%                      55%
NGO                 13%                      11%
Business            13%                      11%
Government           8%                       6%
Media                3%                       3%
Religious            5%                       6%
Other                7%                       9%

Selected comments from first-time visitors are available in the full report cited above.

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's primary objective is to widen international policy debates around African issues, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.

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