The majority of Internet users are now young, black and live on less than R1,500 a month, according to a new report launched on Tuesday. The report gives the first results of The South African Network Society Survey, based on face-to-face interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,589 South African adults across rural and urban areas of the country.
According to the report, one in three (34%) adults now use the Internet. Two out of three Internet users (66%) speak an African language at home, most of the them have not been educated beyond school level and four out of ten live on less than R1,500 per month.
Almost three quarters of them use their phones to go online though only a minority are entirely dependent on mobiles to get online. Most don't own computers but use PCs to get Internet access via Internet café's or other public or shared facilities.
'The New Wave – who uses the Internet in South Africa, where they use it and what they use it for' was written by Indra de Lanerolle, Visiting Research Associate at University of Witwatersrand and leader of the South African Network Society Survey. The project is a partner in the World Internet Project - a global network of Internet researchers. Consultant was Dr Mark Orkin, former head of Statistics South Africa.
The report shows Internet use has risen dramatically over the last four years from 15% in 2008 to 34% this year. If the Internet keeps growing at the same rate it has done over the last four years then more than half of adults in South Africa will be Internet users by 2014.
Author, Indra de Lanerolle says: "Our results show there is a New Wave of users who have come online in the last few years. Their presence is something that business, Government, political parties and civil society should be responding to."
Some of the other key findings in the report include:
The report finds that people start using the Internet to learn, to connect cheaply and efficiently with friends and family and to help them in their work and even to look for work. The top five reasons for first going online are: to get information, to socialise, for study, for work or business and to look for a job.
But the report also describes some of the barriers to reaching the 66% who are not online. Half (50%) of these non-users say they don't know what the Internet is and only 4% of them own a computer. de Lanerolle argues that reaching these people is not guaranteed: "our research indicates that ordinary South Africans are now finding social and economic benefits from going online. But in order for most South Africans get access to the Internet we need to increase the availability of facilities at Internet Cafes, libraries, schools and colleges and we need to reduce prices of mobile data."
The report finds that one of the greatest impediments to Internet use is English language literacy. According to the report, about one in five adults do not read and write English easily and almost none of these people (3%) use the Internet. "The New Wave of users are not rich, but they are literate in English. Until the South African Internet becomes much more multi-lingual, and until Internet connection speeds are fast enough to easily enable access to voice and video content as well as text then millions of South Africans who should be part of the next wave of users are going to remain locked out"
The full report is available at http://www.networksociety.co.za where you can also download infographics from the report. Please credit all quotes or content from the report:
'From 'The New Wave' Author Indra de Lanerolle, © University of Witwatersrand http://www.networksociety.co.za'