How #DataMustFall was a load of nonsense

The #DataMustFall campaign made headlines in September, calling for lower mobile data prices from South Africa’s major networks.

Tbo Touch, CEO of TouchCentral FM, gave mobile networks 30 days to make a change to their mobile data prices – and is credited with starting the campaign.

After he launched the #DataMustFall campaign, thousands of South Africans joined – asking for affordable mobile data prices.

The campaign even made it to hearings into high mobile data prices at Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Telecommunications and Postal Services.

The committee’s chairman, Mmamoloko Kubayi, decided that data prices should be reduced within weeks.

Africa Check takes on #DataMustFall

The campaign was, in part, based on the claim that South Africans spend 24.7% of their income on data – which was “too high”.

“Sipho Ngwenya, an information technology engineer, told ANN7 viewers that South Africans currently spend 24.7% of income on data,” said Africa Check.

Africa Check decided to fact-check this claim, and found it to be incorrect.

The 24.7% figure was based on a Research ICT Africa statement, which looked at a survey conducted in 2011 and 2012 in 13 African countries.

In South Africa, the survey was conducted in 1,589 households across the country.

Research ICT Africa calculated that airtime and subscriptions took up 24.7% of South Africans’ income, stated the report.

The figure was for “cellphone use in total”, and its relation to data alone is therefore incorrect.

24.7% for total use is also incorrect

Africa Check stated that the 24.7% figure for total cellphone use was also at odds with existing research by Stats SA and UCT, and the view of analysts in the industry.

While certain low-income individuals have been found to spend just over 20% of their income on communication services, upper income groups come nowhere near this figure.

Stats SA’s latest survey on income and expenditure – 2010/2011 – interviewed 27,665 households four times over the period of a month on their income and spending.

Communication costs – including postal services, and telephone equipment and services – accounted for 2.8% of households’ expenditure, according the survey.

The poorest 10% of households allocated 4% of their expenditure to communications, while the wealthiest 10% spent 2.5%, stated Africa Check.

Data from the National Income Dynamics Study supports Stats SA’s figures, and shows that in 2014/2015, the bottom 20% of income earners spent 4.8% of total household expenditure on cellphone use.

The top 20% spent 2.3%.

Income group Average household spend per month Average household cellphone spend per month Cellphone spend as % of household spend
1 R1,090 R52 4.80%
2 R1,984 R88 4.40%
3 R3,184 R136 4.30%
4 R5,920 R191 3.20%
5 R22,330 R503 2.30%

The claim is incorrect

“People have claimed that South Africans spend close to a quarter of their income on data, based on research conducted by Research ICT Africa,” said Africa Check.

“But the study took into account money spent on both data and airtime. It is also at odds with two much larger nationally-representative studies.”

Its conclusion: the claim is incorrect.

Now read: Telkom LTE users consume more data than ADSL and fibre combined

Africa Check’s reports are available on Facebook and Twitter.

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How #DataMustFall was a load of nonsense