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Abstract

Recent attempts to connect the current ‘next billion’ to the Internet in places such as sub-Saharan Africa have not met expectations. In places where Internet infrastructure has come online and prices have gone down, the expected consequent increase in uptake was not observed. I develop a framework that incorporates language in the the two-sided markets framework, viewing differences as transaction costs. As a result of the cross-side network effects, it is difficult to isolate the causal effect of one on the other. The exogenous introduction of the Setswana language interface on the South African Google Search website was a spillover of the development of that interface for the Botswanan Google website. This exogenous improvement in the accessibility of Setswana-language content has resulted in a substantial increase in the number of native Setswana speakers coming online and owning personal computers. This is turn has also led to increased usage of the Setswana language online. This adoption appears to also lead to improvements in employment.

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