Internet in South Africa: from luxury to way of life

bra willy seyama | enitiate | South Africa | Internet way of life | Mar 2022

I published my first eNsight on the high cost of mobile data in South Africa in 2011.

I made a prediction then that the high mobile data cost will come down, thanks to Cell C – the “Robin Hood of mobile data” of that era.  

In this eNsight I share key data, based on the Digital Report 2022, which clearly show that the Internet has become a way of life for South Africans across the spectrum. 

As I do this, I want you to mull over the following question:

Has mobile data become affordable in South Africa? 

Read on.

Table of Contents

Inspiration for this eNsight

While chatting to a friend during my recent Botswana business trip, he mentioned that mobile data is too high in South Africa.

Having published extensively about Internet adoption trends on the African continent in the last 4 years, I decided to test the validity of the statement above in this eNsight.

How to read the graphs in this eNsight

The data I use in this eNsight come from the authoritative Digital Report 2022.

The bulk of the graphs that are shared herein are based on comparison of South Africa’s ranking against the leading countries in the world across the selected metrics that are related to the subject under review.

As you will discover, the comparative country graphs really illuminate Mzansi’s performance on the Internet by assisting with assessment thereof from a global perspective. 

Let us jump right in.

Internet adoption in South Africa

As the Digital Report 2022 shows, a sizeable number of South Africans have access to the Internet.

As th rest of this eNsight will show, Mzansi is well-positioned for becoming Africa’s leading digital economy. 

Internet access is widespread in South Africa

The lower the urban concentration score the better, as it indicates that social media access is more widespread.

For context, the scores for Northern Europe and North America’s urban concentration of social media users range between 1.4 and 3.

Clearly then, South Africa compares favourably on this metric.

Without a doubt, access to social media, and thus the Internet, has become part of an average South African’s way of life, for sure. 

South Africans spend more of their waking time on the Internet

Considering that:

  • a day has only 24 hours,
  • an average human being is asleep for between 6 to 8 hours, leaving a maximum of 18 hours of waking time each day,

this means 60% of the waking hours are spent on the Net by South Africans who have the access.

Thankfully, South Africans use the Internet responsibly

Click on the live tweet above for a clearer view of the 2 attached graphs highlighting South Africa’s ranking on 3 highlighted reasons for using the Internet, compared to Global averages.

This data point is equally significant.

In the main, South Africans are not just dawdling on the Internet. 

They are using this channel for more meaningful stuff!

The two graphs below provide more evidence for this finding. 

In the graph for “Use of Social Media for Work Activities”, South Africa ranks third in the world.

In the graph for “Use of Online Financial Services”, South Africa ranks first in the world. Yes, you read it correctly. F-I-R-S-T.

You can click on each above graph for full screen view.

The future of the Internet looks bright for South Africa

After long delays, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) – the government-appointed entity that is responsible for managing the telecoms sector in the country – is conducting the auctioning of broadband spectrum licences at the time of publishing this eNsight.

While Internet speeds have been improving overtime, I can’t wait for even higher speeds subsequent to the issuing of the 4G and 5G spectrum licenses – a process that is estimated to will take only weeks to conclude – by ICASA.

Another development is finally in full swing in South Africa: the broadcast digital migration

In addition to ICASA’s spectrum auction event, another long-awaited development – the switch from analogue to digital tv in South Africa – is currently taking place across the country. 

Date of the broadcast digital transmitter switch-on in Mpumalanga Province: 1 February 2022.

This long-overdue broadcast digital migration, which was supposed to have taken place a decade ago, will result in the release of additional spectrum capacity that is sorely needed to meet the increasing demand for Internet bandwidth by the People of The South. 

As it so happens, both the spectrum auction and the broadcast digital migration fall under the Communications and Digital Communications Department.

This Ministry is ably headed by Ms Khumbudzo Tshavheni, who was appointed to this office only in August 2021.

I am waiting with anticipation for the Minister’s report card rating at the end of this year.

Has the Internet become affordable in South Africa?

And now time to answer the question I posed at the beginning of this eNsight.

Click on the live tweet above for a clearer view of the 2 attached graphs – the first one for “mobile’s share of Web traffic”, and the second one for “time spent using the Internet on mobile”.

As clearly highlighted in the attached graphs, South Africa ranks very high in the world for both metrics.

I therefore conclude...

Logic tells me the People of the South must be affording mobile Internet, otherwise it would be impossible for them to “camp on the Internet” as demonstrated by the daily amount of time they spend on this channel, and their associated online activities that have seen the soaring of South Africa’s global rankings.

But I also suspect...

The perception about high cost of mobile data in this country will linger on for some while still, despite the increasing price competition that is now being waged by the Mafikizolo (the latest entrant in the mobile data market) called Rain.

In closing: 2022 Digital South Africa Today Infographic

Here below is an infographic that captures the key 2022 digital trends in South Africa today, most of which are covered in this eNsight.



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