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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Urges Restraint in Hong Kong Protests

Protesters angered by Beijing's decision to only approve candidates that it sanctions for Hong Kong's leadership elections in 2017 More

Archive of Forgotten UCLA Speeches Offers Snapshot of History

Recordings of prominent voices in social change, politics, science and literature from 1960s, early 1970s now available on YouTube 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.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid