South Africans are the biggest internet addicts in the world

 ·4 Mar 2023

We Are Social and Maltwater published the latest Global Digital Report for 2023, showing how the world’s internet population has changed over the past 12 months.

The report draws data from several sources and research groups, including GlobalWebIndex, GSMA Intelligence, Statista, Locowise, Data.AI, and SimilarWeb, to compile a comprehensive overview on digital trends.

According to the report, mobile dominates as a channel across the globe, with 5.44 billion unique mobile users in the world today – up 168 million (3.2%) from January 2022.

There are 5.16 billion internet users in 2023, an increase of 98 million (1.9%) versus January 2022, and there are 4.76 billion social media users in 2023, with the worldwide total growing by 137 million (3%) since this time last year.

Looking specifically at Southern Africa and South Africa, internet penetration rates are a mix of relatively low (72% for internet and 2.9% for social media) to comparatively high (187.4% for mobile) when compared globally.

Other key findings of the report regarding South Africa are given below:

South Africans spend a lot of time online

According to the report, South Africans spend the longest time online compared to any other country – connected for an average of 9 hours and 38 minutes daily on any device.

This is far higher than the global average of 6 hours and 37 minutes – and over 2 hours more than the USA – making us the biggest internet addicts in the world.

Connecting via computers, South Africans are also the biggest users, spending just under four and a half hours a day, on average, glued to our screens.

Looking at mobile internet time, South Africans are also higher than the global average, spending 5 hours and 13 minutes daily connecting via mobile devices.

South Africa’s average internet speeds are far below average – but higher than African peers

According to the report, South Africa’s average fixed-line internet speeds are at 40.12 Mbps, which is some way below the global average of 74.54 Mbps.

Surprisingly, the world leader is Chile, with an average speed of a blistering 216 Mbps, while China and Singapore come in close 2nd and 3rd with speeds of 214 Mbps, respectively.

The only African country to beat South Africa was Egypt, with a speed of 45.79 Mbps, while Ghana, Nigeria, and Kenya trailed in last place, with speeds of 27.70, 11.84, and 9.60 Mbps, respectively.

Our mobile speeds are higher than the global average

South Africa’s average mobile speed is recorded at 36.70 Mbps, just above the global average at 33.97 Mbps.

Overall, mobile speeds have become much faster over the years, with some countries boasting speeds that are faster than most other countries’ fixed-line speeds.

The U.A.E. recorded the highest average mobile speed of 139.41 Mbps in 2023, while in 2019, Canada recorded the highest average at only 65.1 Mbps.

We spend more time on social media than the average

South Africans also spend more time using social media platforms than the global average, with the report recording the average time spent at 3 hours and 44 minutes each day.

The average social media user globally spends 2 hours and 31 minutes on social platforms each day – with extreme users (Philippines) spending over 4 hours.

South Africans have 7.8 social media accounts on average.

We love WhatsApp

In a broader look at the most popular Social media platforms in each country, South Africans’ usage patterns showed that WhatsApp was the top app.

We spend an average of R4,717 shopping online

As part of the report, Melteater also looked at e-commerce and online shopping across the globe.

South Africa ranks quite low as an e-commerce nation, with the average revenue per user (ARPU) going towards consumer goods sitting at around $258 (R4,717) annually.

This is far lower than the global average of $873 (R15,961) annually.

One of the reasons for this is the low penetration of online shopping habits, with less than half (47.7%) of South Africa’s internet users actually making online purchases.

According to the report, online spending makes up only 1.72% of GDP per capita and represents 3.82% of total retail revenue in the country.

The report highlighted that the most money spent online goes towards electronics ($1.81 billion), toys, hobbies, and DIY ($1.34 billion), Furinture ($1.12 billion) and fashion ($1 billion) annually.

Read: This once-obscure sport is booming in South Africa – here are all the places you can play and how much it costs

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter