Despite Advances, South Africa Still Lags in Internet Usage

    13 October, 2013


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Technology Report.

    South Africa is the richest countries in Africa, it is also one of the most modern and technologically advanced. It has some of the best rail, road and communication systems in Africa. Yet more than two-thirds of South African adults have never used the Internet.

    The South African Network Society recently reported that only 34% of South African adults use the Internet. That is about 12 million people.

    Three-quarters of the country's Internet users live in cities. Most of them use cell phones to get on the Internet. The rest go to Internet cafes or use the Internet at school or work.

    Indra de Lanerolle is with the South African Network Society. He says there are many reasons why so few South Africans use the Internet. Cost is one of them.

    "We do have expensive costs and cost is a big limitation to Internet use. It stops some people (from) using the Internet at all, and the other thing it does it stops people (from) using it very much. So unless we can do much better than 1 in 3 connected, increasingly that’s going to be a real disadvantage for the country."

    Poor Internet connectivity in rural South Africa and the high prices of Internet-ready mobile phones have also kept the poor disconnected. Most schools and work places in rural South Africa, where the majority of country's people live, have no Internet connection.

    And many areas of the country do not have Internet cafes. Sam Gina lives in Johannesburg, he has never been on the Internet.
    "At home I don’t have it. Laptop is too expensive for me. Now I am using a phone that doesn’t have Internet."

    Wilson Ayong is a Cameroonian citizen who operates an Internet cafe in Johannesburg. He says the prices at Internet cafes are too high for many south Africans.

    "An hour here we take for five Rand. We give three hours for 10 Rand, we give 30 minutes for three Rand, 15 minutes for two Rand. It’s a bit expensive."

    So why it is so expensive to get on the Internet in Africa's richest country. One reason is South Africa has too little bandwidth for its needs. And these private providers increase the country's bandwidth, they are making users pay the cost to do so.

    Even so the South African Network Society's Mr. de Lanerolle says Internet access in the country is improving. He says a new generation of Internet users from the country's middle class is quickly entering an area once reserved for the rich.

    His believe is supported by reports that show Internet usage and access in South Africa has increased by more than 100% in the last five years.

    And that's the Technology Report from VOA Learning English. I'm June Simms.