News / Africa

Despite Advances, S. Africa Still Lags in Internet Usage

In this 2009 file photo, Winston, a carrier pigeon, is held in front of a laptop computer which is downloading data from a memory card in Durban, South Africa.  A South African information technology company proved it was faster for them to transmit data with Winston the pigeon than to send it using Telkom, the country's leading internet service provider.
In this 2009 file photo, Winston, a carrier pigeon, is held in front of a laptop computer which is downloading data from a memory card in Durban, South Africa. A South African information technology company proved it was faster for them to transmit data with Winston the pigeon than to send it using Telkom, the country's leading internet service provider.
South Africa is one of the most technologically advanced countries in Africa, yet two-thirds of its adults have never used the Internet. 

Described by some as Africa’s most sophisticated economy, South Africa has some of the best rail, road and communication facilities on the continent. The World Economic Forum’s most recent competitive index ranked South Africa as number two in Africa, behind Mauritius.
 
South Africa boasts of having the only commercial nuclear energy station in Africa. In 2024, it will be home to the largest and most sensitive radio telescope in the southern hemisphere.
 
However, the country's Internet usage stands in stark contrast.

A recent study by the South African Network Society survey - a research organization looking at the social impact of new telecommunications networks and technologies in Africa - found that only 34% of South African adults use the Internet. That’s about 12 million people.
 
Three-quarters of the Internet users are urban dwellers. The majority of them use their cell phones for access, while the remainder rely on Internet cafes or educational or work facilities.
 
Sonkabite Reginald Mugoe, a 19-year-old student in Johannesburg, is an active Internet user.
 
“I am always with my phone, every time I feel like I can get into the Internet, I get in, Google," Mugoe said. "If I struggle with answers sometimes l search for the answers, but if I want to use a PC, I go to an Internet cafe or even I want to print something that I’m researching about.”
 
There are many reasons for the dismal Internet statistics in South Africa, said
South African Network Society survey leader Indra de Lanerolle. First, home Internet access is too expensive for most South Africans.  Prices for mobile data have also been found to be unaffordable.  And Lanerolle says language is another huge barrier. Those whose reading skills are limited to local South African languages are effectively shut out.
 
“We do have expensive costs and cost is a big limitation to Internet use," he said. "It stops some people from using the Internet at all, and the other thing it does it stops people using it very much. So unless we do better than 1 in 3 connected, increasingly that’s going to be a real disadvantage for the country.”
 
Poor Internet connectivity in rural South Africa and the high prices of Internet-enabled cellular phones have also kept the poor disconnected. Most schools and work places in rural South Africa, where the majority of people live, have no Internet provision.

Lack of Internet cafes in most areas of the country has also prevented access. Johannesburg resident Sam Gina is one of those who have never used the Internet.
 
 “At home I don’t have it. Laptop is too expensive for me. Now I am using a phone that doesn’t have Internet, he said.
 
And Wilson Ayong, A Cameroonian national who runs an Internet café in Johannesburg, says prices charged at Internet cafes are also prohibitive.
 
“An hour here we take for five Rand. We give three hours for 10 Rand, we give 30 minutes for three Rand, 15 minutes for two Rand," explained Ayong.  "It’s a bit expensive because students always complain they cannot afford because they are students, so at least if the data bundle is a bit cheaper, everybody can afford to go to an Internet café.”
 
The question is why are Internet prices so high in Africa’s richest country when they are affordable elsewhere?  
 
Part of the explanation is that South Africa still has too little bandwidth for its needs and private providers are still investing a lot of money to increase capacity. That cost is passed on to users.  
 
Some are calling for the government to address this with subsidies.  But with so many demands on the public coffers to address high unemployment rates, illiteracy, AIDS and poverty it is not clear that getting more adults online is a priority.  
 
However, de Lanerolle says South Africa’s future in Internet access and usage is not without hope. Close to half of those adults using the Internet are living on $150 per month, he said, a fact that shows that a new generation of Internet users from the middle class is fast entering a space once dominated by the wealthy.
 
His argument is backed up by statistics showing that Internet usage and access in South Africa has increased by more than 100% in the last five years. This, said Lanerolle, gives hope that the majority of South Africans will soon be online.

You May Like

Video Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had warned storm could be one of worst in city history More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Kitagawa Keikoh from: Nakameguro
September 28, 2013 8:13 PM
It is surprising that two-thirds adults have never used internet in South Africa.
We can not do our business without using internet and they can not become a rich country forever.

Poor countries can not acsess to the world market without internet and they will remain poor.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid