South Africa’s big internet problem

 ·14 Oct 2023

Internet accessibility may be improving in South Africa, but its quality is still below the global average.

The recent Census from Stats SA showed that internet connectivity in South Africa has significantly improved.

In 2011, 64.8% of surveyed households said that they did not have internet access.

However, in the recently released 2022 Census, this number dropped massively to 21.1%.

Source: Stats SA

Although internet access is improving, data from VPN Surfshark looked at how fast countries’ internet truly is.

Using its 2023 Digital Quality of Life Index, Surfshark was able to look at internet inequality by analysing two DQL indicators – internet speed and time to work to afford it in respect to countries’ economic well-being (income level).

“The divide is especially high when it comes to fixed broadband internet. Lower-income countries work 4.1 times more for 3.3 times slower internet. On average, people living in rich countries enjoy internet speeds of 140 Mbps for a bit less than 3 hours of work per month, while lower-income countries get only 42 Mbps for more than 12 hours of work,” Surfshark said.

“The gap is smaller when it comes to mobile internet, but only affordability-wise. Lower-income countries work 1.6 times more for 3.1 times slower internet compared to high-income countries. On average, people living in higher income countries enjoy mobile internet speeds of 96 Mbps for 1 hour 41 min of work per month, while lower-income countries get only 32 Mbps for more than 2 hours 37 min of work.”

However, higher income does not necessarily mean that a country can offer superior internet quality. Other factors, including e-infrastructure in the region, play an even greater role.

“For example, South Africa is considered to be a higher income country, but its fixed internet speed (70 Mbps) is twice lower than the average in higher income countries,” Surfshark said.

“On the other hand, the Philippines – a lower income country – has three times faster-fixed internet (119 Mbps) than the average in the lower income group.”

South Africa’s fixed internet speed is actually below the global average of 108 Mbps.

In addition, the average mobile speed in South Africa of 68 Mbps is also below the global average of 75 Mbps.

However, looking more positively, it takes a far smaller amount of time for South Africans to afford the cheapest mobile data package. The global average is 7,158 seconds, whilst in South Africa, it is 5,162 seconds.

Moreover, it takes the average South Africa (104 minutes) far less time to afford the cheapest fixed internet than than the global average (359 minutes).

Information from the study can be found below:

Country/IncomeSeconds to work to afford the cheapest mobile data packageMinutes to work to afford the cheapest fixed (broadband) internetMobile speed, MbpsFixed (broadband) speed, Mbps
Higher Income6,06717896140
Lower Income9,4187353242
Global Average 7,15835975108
South Africa 5,16210468 70
Source: Surfshark

Read: Tech headache for executives in South Africa

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