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 How Aleppo Rebels Plan to Withstand Assad's Siege

    Rebels in Aleppo are laying plans to withstand a siege by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in likelihood the regime cuts a final main supply line running west of city

    Scientists Detect Gravitational Waves in Landmark Discovery

    Researchers likened discovery to difference between looking at piece of music on paper and then hearing it in real life

    Prince Ali: FIFA Politics Affected International Fixtures

    Some countries faced unfavorable treatment for not toeing political line inside soccer world body, Jordanian candidate to head FIFA says

    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.

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    NATO to Target Migrant Smugglersi
    X
    Jeff Custer
    February 11, 2016 4:35 PM
    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video How Aleppo Rebels Plan to Withstand Assad's Siege

    Rebels in Aleppo are laying plans to withstand a siege by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in the likelihood the regime cuts a final main supply line running west of the city. They vow a siege will not be over quickly. But their plans are not being helped by squabbles breaking out among insurgent commanders.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Co-Ed Selective Service Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.