The internet economy will reach $4.2 trillion in the G20 countries, including South Africa as a member state.
If it were a national economy, the internet economy would rank in the world’s top five, behind only the US, China, Japan, and India, and ahead of Germany, according to The Connected Word: The Internet Economy in the G-20 Report, published recently.
Despite internet economy getting bigger, the economic impact of internet economy is not experienced by all South Africans.
But Reshaad Sha, chief strategy officer and executive director at Dark Fibre Africa (DFA), says the internet access is becoming synonymous with economic access.
“For this reason, it is critical that the country prioritise the roll-out of infrastructure in underserved areas, especially outside the major metropolitan areas.”
This has been confirmed by a study titled The Internet Access in South Africa 2017, conducted by World Wide Worx with the support of DFA, that the internet has become a vital tool for communication and information in South Africa, highlighting the importance of connectivity as a key to economic access.
The report shows that the single most common use of the Internet among South African adults is Communication, reported by almost a third (31 per cent) of respondents, followed by Social Networking (24.9 per cent) and Information (23.7 per cent), both reported by almost a quarter of respondents. Only then comes Entertainment, at 22.1 per cent.
The report includes data from the Target Group Index (TGI) survey conducted by Ask Afrika, the largest market research organisation in Africa.
World Wide Worx collaborates with Ask Afrika in the structuring of e-commerce, digital and electronics components of TGI, which comprises 15 000 interviews across a vast range of consumer topics and behaviours.
The question on primary uses of the Internet was answered by a sample representing 4.1-million South African adults across all income and education levels.
While Communication is the single most important use, Email use is reported by only 16.1 per cent of respondents, indicating that it is becoming a less important element of the communications mix as social media becomes a default channel.
Shopping and finance applications are cited by only 15.2 per cent of respondents, confirming previous World Wide Worx research that showed e-commerce was still not a major element of South African retail in general.
“The findings emphasises the potential of the Internet to enhance lives when we have greater penetration across all segments and demographics,” said Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx.
“Over time, we will see higher proportions of people engaging in a wider range of activity, but the barriers to more active use will first have to come down.”
DFA is an open access fibre provider that offers its partners access to its network to provide high-speed internet that generates major economic growth and rapid job creation, plus innovation for developers of solutions in the digital economy.
“A country’s capacity to connect its economy to the Internet and make these services available and accessible to its citizens and businesses is key to its success in the digital age,” says Sha.
“Open access fibre infrastructure deployment and availability play a critical role in enabling service providers to deliver a range high speed of fixed and wireless internet access technologies and services to their consumer and business markets. This contributes significantly towards the further development of the knowledge economy in South Africa.”