The average South African’s employability increases by 4.2% when they have access to fast internet.
This is according to a new National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, focusing on the effects internet penetration has had on employment in Africa.
The report specifically looked at the gradual arrival of submarine internet cables in the country, and mapped the terrestrial cable network to understand what effects it had on local economies.
The employment rate in connected areas relative to unconnected areas increased by between 4.2% and 10% when fast internet became available.
“Employment may have been increasing at a faster rate in connected areas before the submarine cables arrived, but we found no evidence of these differential trends,” said the report’s author, Jonas Hjort.
“It also did not appear that the employment response was due to the formalisation of pre-existing informal jobs. In some countries, some jobs may relocate from unconnected to connected areas once fast internet arrives, but such job displacement could at most explain a portion of the overall increase in employment rates.”
The report found further that the level and types of skilled occupations also increased when good internet access was available, while the probability of holding an unskilled job decreases.
In line with the findings, average incomes and wealth also rise in the areas that see changes in employment when fast internet arrives.
“In each of three different datasets that together cover 12 African countries with a combined population of roughly half a billion people, we find a significant relative increase—of 4.2% to 10%—in the employment rate in connected areas when fast internet becomes available,” Hjort said.
“Extensive prodding of the identifying assumptions suggests that these estimates reflect a causal effect of access to fast internet on employment rates.”