South Africa’s mobile, data prices benchmarked

The ITU’s Measuring Information Society report shows which countries in the world are leading the way in terms of ICT development and costs – and where South Africa fits into the global picture.

According to the report, South Africa’s information and communication technology costs are quite rich when compared on a global scale, ranking 93rd out of 166 countries – while the country’s ICT development status has declined from a year ago.

In terms of overall ICT development, South Africa is ranked 90th in the world, down one position from 89th in the 2013 report.

This is expressed in the ICT Development Index (IDI) which measures 11 indicators across 3 sub-indices: access to ICT, intensity of use, and ICT capability and skills in a country.

South Africa ranks highest in terms of its ICT use (82nd out of 166 countries), and lowest in terms of ICT accessibility (92nd).

South Africa ICT Development

Index Global Rank Score
Overall 90 4.42
Access 92 4.82
Use 82 2.75
Skills 86 6.98

Its IDI values fell short of the global average (4.77), with only Mauritius (the top African nation) and Seychelles managing to beat the average score.

South Africa, along with Cape Verde and Botswana did however,  manage to achieve a higher value than the developing-country average (3.84).

Africa IDI
Africa IDI

Denmark was ranked as the most ICT-developed nation in the world, followed but the Republic of Korea and and a large number of highly developed European countries.

Top 10 countries for ICT

# Country Index score
1 Denmark 8.86
2 Republic of Korea 8.85
3 Sweden 8.67
4 Iceland 8.64
5 United Kingdom 8.50
6 Norway 8.39
7 Netherlands 8.38
8 Finland 8.31
9 Hong Kong 8.28
10 Luxembourg 8.26

ICT costs

The ITU report also measured the cost of ICT across the world, looking specifically at fixed-line telephony, mobile cellular and fixed broadband prices, expressed as a percentage of gross national income per capita (GNI p.c.).

On a global scale, South Africa again ranks in the middle to low reaches of the index, ranking 93rd, overall, with the taken price basket of ICT prices costing 3.2% of the country’s GNI per capita (US$7,190).

On average, South Africans pay 2.9%-3.4% on ICT in the country.

South Africa ICT baskets

Basket % of GNI p.c.
ICT price basket 3.2%
Fixed line basket 3.3%
Mobile basket 3.4%
Broadband basket 2.9%

Breaking it down, South African fixed-line and mobile telephony proves to be comparatively costly, ranking 119th and 103rd, respectively.

South Africa’s best ICT access point was fixed-line broadband, which ranked 75th, overall, followed by 1GB of prepaid mobile broadband, which ranked 76th, overall.

However, the global comparison doesn’t necessarily translate to the most affordable in a local context.

The same prepaid mobile broadband package that ranked 76th is also the most expensive measure listed by the ITU, costing 4.82% of the taken GNI per capita – or over 51 International (PPP) dollars.

Post-paid mobile broadband, using 500MB of data, meanwhile, is the country’s cheapest ICT access point, costing ‘only’ 2.58% of the taken GNI per capita (ranked 91st, globally).

The table below lists the ranked South African packages on the given GNI per capita of $7,190

Product Global rank
% of GNI p.c.
US$ PPP$ Notes
Fixed-line 119 3.25% $19.49 $34.51
Mobile 103 3.40% $20.40 $36.12
Fixed-line broadband 75 2.85% $17.09 $30.26 1Mbps, 5GB
Post-paid mobile broadband 91 2.58% $15.43 $27.33 500MB data
Post-paid mobile broadband 94 4.30% $25.79 $45.67 1GB data
Prepaid mobile broadband 82 2.75% $16.47 $29.16 500MB data
Prepaid mobile broadband 76 4.82% $28.90 $51.17 1GB data

The ITU said that Africa is the region where a prepaid handset based mobile-broadband plan with a 500 MB monthly allowance is the least affordable in the light of household expenditure, noting that the trend feeds into South Africa as well.

“In South Africa, the African country where prices are most affordable, they still correspond to more than 10% of equivalized household expenditure for 70% of inhabitants,” the ITU noted.

This means that only the richest 30% of the population could afford to have a handset-based mobile broadband subscription for each member of the household, whereas the remaining 70% of the population could not afford to have an individual subscription.

Macao (China) was ranked as the cheapest place for ICT access in the world, costing only 0.2% of the country’s GNI per capita, followed by Singapore and Kuwait (0.3% of the GNI pc) and Qatar, Norway, Hong Kong and Switzerland (0.4% of the GNI p.c.).

The costliest nation was listed as Malawi, where it costs 70.2% of the country’s GNI per capita in the ICT price basket. The country was ranked below Madagascar (69.7%), CAR (66.6%), Niger (59.3%) and Togo (52.5%).

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South Africa’s mobile, data prices benchmarked