The South African Internet user population passed the 20-million mark for the first time last year, reaching 21 million, and is expected to grow to at least 22.5 million in 2017.
This is according to the Internet Access in South Africa 2017 study, published by World Wide Worx in conjunction with Dark Fibre Africa (DFA).
Based on Stats SA’s estimate that the South African population reached 55.9 million people in June 2016, this means that the country will reach the 40% Internet penetration mark this year.
“Finally reaching the point where we can say every second adult South African is connected to the Internet is a major landmark, because Internet access is becoming synonymous with economic access,” said Reshaad Sha, chief strategy officer and executive director of DFA.
“For this reason, it is critical that the country prioritise the roll-out of infrastructure in underserved areas, especially outside the major metropolitan areas.”
The report found that the digital divide remains a stark reality in South Africa, despite more than half of all adults in the country now having Internet access.
“It’s a divide that stretches across almost every imaginable sector of society, from geography and location to income and education,” said Sha.
The research pointed to a clear divide in income disparity. Among adult South Africans earning more than R30,000 a month, Internet penetration is at 82.4%, on a par with overall penetration in many industrialised countries.
However, penetration declines rapidly as income declines, falling to 61.3% for those earning between R14,000 and R18,000, 42% for those earning between R3,000 and R6,000, and below 30% for those earning below R2,500 a month, the executive summary said.
The report noted that the Western Cape has by some margin the highest Internet penetration of all provinces, at 75%, followed by Gauteng at 55%.