The price of mobile data is a key barrier to Internet use in South Africa, a report from Research ICT Africa prepared for Mozilla has found.
Mozilla commissioned the research to see what services Africans were connecting to online, what the effect of zero-rating traffic is, and what the barriers to entry are.
Research ICT Africa found that the price of data and the speed at which it depletes left many respondents frustrated.
For the study, it interviewed focus groups in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape, and Eastern Cape. It interviewed groups from urban, peri-urban, rural, and deep-rural areas.
The study found that as a result of the price of monthly data bundles, many respondents opted for smaller bundles which were consumed quickly, and bundles valid for shorter periods than a month.
“Bonus data” allocations for purchasing airtime and zero-rated services were also used as a way to help consumers control how much they spent on mobile data.
Another significant barrier in rural areas was the availability of electricity.
People from rural areas restricted themselves to using the Internet during the day, as phones are taken to overnight charging stations.
Respondents also expressed a lack of interest in the Internet, as they would rather spend their money on meeting basic needs.
The affordability of Internet-capable devices also impacted Internet use.
“Although some entry-level smartphones have been introduced in the market, these remain out of reach of some respondents that were unemployed or simply did not have sufficient income to spend on a device,” stated the report.
It further found that users in urban and peri-urban areas benefit from alternative methods of accessing the Internet, including free Wi-Fi, public access centres, and Internet cafes.
“However, locating public Wi-Fi spots is a challenge for respondents.” Free commercial Wi-Fi, such as that in food outlets, was the most popular choice.
The report offered the following recommendations:
- Infrastructural issues still need to be addressed in rural areas, in particular to increase quality of service, which would allow users to choose any operator offering the cheapest product.
- Secondary spectrum use such as TV white spaces and unused GSM spectrum could be reassigned for community self-provision.