Notes on Data Variance, Mismatches, and Curiosities

The reports we feature on use data from a wide variety of sources, including market research agencies, internet and social media companies, governments and public bodies, news media, journalists, and our own proprietary analysis.

Wherever possible, we’ve prioritised data sources that provide broader geographical coverage, in order to minimise potential variations between data points, and to enable more reliable comparison across countries. However, where we believe that an individual metric provides a more reliable reference, we’ve used such individual numbers to ensure the most accurate reporting.

Furthermore, due to differing data collection and preparation methodologies used by the different organisations whose data we feature, as well as the different sample periods during which their data were collected, there may be significant differences in the reported metrics for similar data points throughout our reports.

In particular, data collected via surveys often vary significantly from one report to another, even if those data have been collected by the same organisation using the same methodology and approach in each ‘wave’ of data collection.

Similarly, reports of internet user numbers vary considerably between different sources, due to the complex nature of collecting this data. In part, this is because there are fewer commercial imperatives for governments and regulators to collect and publish regular internet user data compared to, for example, the regular advertising audience and user number updates published by social media companies, who depend on such data to sell their products and services.

However, the latest user numbers published by these social media companies can be a useful proxy for the overall number of internet users in countries where no other reliable data are available, because all active social media users must (by default) have an active internet connection in order to access social media.

Because of this, on occasion, we’ve used the latest monthly active user data – or the total potential advertising audience size – reported by social media companies to inform our internet user numbers, especially in less-developed economies, where ‘official’ internet user numbers are published less frequently. As a result, there are a number of countries in our reports where the number of social media users equals the number of internet users.

It’s unlikely that all internet users in any given country will use the same social media platform though, so in cases where internet and social media user numbers are the same, it’s likely that the actual number of internet users will be higher than the number we’ve reported.

Lastly, in some instances, metrics may have decreased year-on-year due to corrections in the source data, actual declines in user numbers, and / or changes in the primary data source that we’ve used in our reporting due to reasons such as increased reliability, or the non-availability of updated numbers from previous providers.

If you have any questions about specific data points used in our reports, please see our notes on data sources and methodologies.

And if you’d like to offer your organisation’s data for potential inclusion in our future reports, please click here to email us.