Internet in South Africa – Where we’re good and where we suck

The Economist Intelligence Unit has released its Inclusive Internet Index report, with South Africa ranking 39 out of 86 countries overall.

The study assesses the performance of countries in four categories relating to Internet inclusion: Accessibility, Affordability, Relevance, and Readiness.

South Africa is tied for first in the world when it comes to the index’s policy metric, and Relevance is the only top-level indicator where the country is not in the top two in Africa.

This is due to the limited availability of basic information (online news) in local languages, where South Africa ranked 82 out of 86.

The report also highlights the areas where South Africa has improved, and where performance has deteriorated, in terms of Internet inclusion.


Where South Africa has improved.

Improved Previous Current Change
Mobile download speed 7,559.00 23,199.54 +206.9%
Mobile upload speed 4,103.00 9,593.28 +133.8%
Bandwidth capacity 147,629.50 263,029.93 +78.2%
Fixed broadband upload speed 2,667.00 4,594.98 +72.3%
Websites using country-level domains 2.00 3.00 +50.0%
Level of web accessibility 2.00 3.00 +50.0%
Network coverage (min. 4G) 54.00 77.60 +43.7%
Mobile latency 57.00 36.75 -35.5%
Fixed broadband latency 57.00 44.01 -22.8%
Fixed broadband download speed 6,336.00 7,664.62 +21.0%
eCommerce content 50.30 54.00 +7.4%
Rural electricity access 77.30 82.80 +7.1%
Internet users 50.58 52.96 +4.7%
Mobile phone cost (prepaid) 1.54 1.47 -4.2%
Educational attainment 9.90 10.30 +4.0%
Network coverage (min. 3G) 98.00 99.20 +1.2%
Network coverage (min. 2G) 99.00 99.90 +0.9%


Where South Africa has declined.

Declined Previous Current Change
Fixed-line monthly broadband cost 2.57 4.00 +56.1%
Fixed-line broadband subscribers 5.25 2.84 -45.9%
Broadband operators’ market share 1,777.02 2,175.52 +22.4%
Internet exchange points 1.47 1.25 -14.9%
Mobile phone cost (postpaid) 1.81 2.00 +10.4%
Wireless operators’ market share 3,205.05 3,414.00 +6.5%
Average revenue per user 106.68 100.63 -5.7%
Urban electricity access 90.00 86.96 -3.4%
Smartphone cost 94.71 94.06 -0.7%

Policy rankings

South Africa placing among the top countries in the world when it comes to policy matters requires further analysis, however.

For years, there has been controversy over the lack of additional wireless frequency spectrum for mobile operators.

In 2017, matters were made worse when the Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services tabled a policy which threatened to not only place new spectrum in the hands of a government-sanctioned monopoly, but to seize the spectrum already assigned to mobile network operators.

South Africa’s policy section scores as follows:

  • National female e-inclusion policies: 1st
  • Government e-inclusion strategy: 1st
  • National broadband strategy: 1st
  • Funding for broadband buildout: 1st
  • Spectrum policy approach: 1st
  • National digital identification system: 1st

It should be noted that South Africa shares first place in these categories with several other countries.

The index’s spectrum policy criteria also does not indicate how well the country is handling the issue of assigning capacity for 4G and 5G services.

Now read: South Africa among the most expensive globally for fixed broadband

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Internet in South Africa – Where we’re good and where we suck