The Internet represents one of the most successful examples of the benefits of sustained investments and commitment to research and development of information infrastructure. Yet despite advances, South African consumers complain about the current state of the country’s internet connectivity, or lack thereof.
Internet access has been a challenge for South Africa and 23 years later, we still face many of those challenges, and some new ones. Lets take a brief look at the history of internet in South Africa, where we are today and take a peak into the digital future that our country aspires to.
Brief History of Internet in South Africa
1988, a team of Rhodes University students, led by Mike Lawrie, began working together to establish the first internet network in South Africa. Using salvaged equipment, they successfully built their own gateway. This resulted in the first IP address which was granted to Rhodes. By 1990, the first TC/IP connection was attempted where Rhodes and University of Cape Town (UCT) tried to link mainframes. The link was successful and further TCP/IP links were established between other universities across South Africa. In 1991 Telkom was officially established, however, Telkom refused to install and lease a line to USA because of high costs involved. Despite this bump in the road, Rhodes set up the first internet protocol connection was later made to Portland, Oregon, USA. Commercial internet access for businesses and private use began in 1992 with the registration of the first .co.za domain. And in 1993, the first commercial ISPs started forming, identifying shared network issues. Through the later years of the 1990’s, technological advances, understanding and regulatory reform continue to develop, bringing in the next phase of the South African network.
The Current Landscape of .CO.ZA
The internet in South Africa today, compared to the internet back in 1992, is very different. South Africa accounts for 60% of the internet traffic in Africa and 41% of the country’s population are connected to the internet, and continues to grow. Lets take a closer look at the demographics.
The Effective Measure Demographics Report
Effective Measure is the official traffic measurement partner of the Digital Media and Marketing Association (DMMA). Together, they offer accurate reports on local website traffic and audience demographics.
The latest Effective Measure demographics report (EMD), conducted in November 2013, showed that South Africa’s internet users are typically over the age of 20 years old, live in the country’s major cities centres and there is an almost even split between male and female internet users. The November 2013 EMD statistics are based on 112,875 surveys conducted on the largest websites of South Africa.
According to the demographic report, 51% of South Africa’s internet users are female and 49% are male. The report showed that 88% of local internet users are over 20 years old and 54% of users are between 20 and 40 years of age. White South African account for the majority of internet users in the country at 64%, followed by 24% Black South Africans, 6% Coloured users and 5% Indian internet users. www.effectivemeasure.com
State of South Africa’s Internet
The state of the internet report, released by Akamai Technologies in 2013, shows that South Africa performed poorly against other surveyed nations. The Akamai report is based on data that is gathered from the Intelligent Platform of the company.
The report provides key global statistics such as broadband adoption, network connectivity, connection speeds and internet availability. South Africa had an average connection speed of 2.3Mbps, and an average peak connection speed of 6.8Mbps. This is significantly lower that the average global and regional speeds of a connection speed of 3.6Mbps and peak connection speed of 17.9Mbps.
Infographic source: http://www.graphics24
So Now What?
There are many reasons for the dismal internet statistics in South Africa. Indra de Lanerolle, survey leader at the South African Network Society explains: Home internet access is too expensive for most of South Africans. Prices for mobile data have also been found to be unaffordable. Lanerolle also says that language is another barrier.
However, de Lanerolle also believes that South Africa’s internet access and usage is not without hope. Stats show that a new generation of internet users are from the middle class that was once dominated only by the wealthy. This argument is backed up by statistics showing the increase of internet access by more than 100% in South Africa over the last five years. However, South Africa needs to strengthen infrastructure, cultivate ICT skills and improve on national ICT strategies, we will remain to be the most expensive broadband with the slowest internet speed country in the world!