The State of ICT in South Africa

There is extensive evidence now that, as technology evolves from basic voice services to that of broadband, the value of networks increases exponentially with significant multiplier effects impacting positively on economic growth and individual well-being under the right conditions. For countries to harness new technologies for the development of their economies and societies, they will need to address the new array of new policy issues affecting the creation of a ‘trust’ environment for the use of these Internet-based services and applications and new competition issues in the platform or ‘gig’ economy while attending to the many unresolved, legacy policy issues. On paper, South Africa has long recognised communications networks as the backbone of the modern economy and society. The National Development Plan provides a framework in which to realise South Africa’s vision that by 2030 “…a widespread broadband communication system will underpin a dynamic and connected vibrant information society and a knowledge economy that is more inclusive, equitable and prosperous.“ Yet, national commitments to ICTs that followed the NDP in the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission via the national broadband policy and plan, SA Connect, have failed to meet their set targets or make significant progress to meet specified objectives. Although lack of affordable devices is the primary barrier to South Africans coming online, and the price of data service the major factors limiting the intensity of use, modelling of the data shows that the main factors determining ICT uptake and intensity of usage are education and income. Even if South Africa’s supply-side interventions were to bring full broadband coverage to the population, this would likely exacerbate digital inequality rather than reduce it. Modelling of the demand-side data shows that the major determinants of access and use of the Internet is education and the corollary indicator of income.