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

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap 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.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid