The number of South Africans using the internet has significantly risen because of the impact of smartphones and mobile phones, a new study has shown.
Internet usage in South Africa grew 25 percent in the past year, according to the study by research company World Wide Worx and the howzit MSN online portal.
The 6.8 million South Africans using the internet at the end of 2010 jumped to 8.5m by the end of last year.
The number was projected to increase to more than 10m people by the end of 2012.
“Penetration is now approaching 20 percent, and for the first time we can see the mass market embracing digital tools on their phones,” said World Wide Worx managing director Arthur Goldstuck.
The study showed that 7.9m South Africans accessed the internet via their cellphones, and that 2.48m did not have access to computers.
About six million people received the internet through computers, laptops, and tablet computers. Most (90 percent) also used their cellphones.
“This has huge implications for media and social networks,” said Justin Zehmke, executive producer of howzit MSN.
“It means that, in the coming years, all services offered online will also have to be offered on cellphones.”
With smartphones being the salient driver of internet usage growth, data costs were also being driven down by the increasing number of undersea cables connecting sub-Saharan Africa to the rest of the world.
The study showed that undersea cable capacity to South Africa at the end of 2011 was 2.69 Terabits a second (Tbps), and would rise to 11.9 Tbps by the end of 2012.
“That capacity will double again in 2013,” said Goldstuck.
This should result in falling data prices, which would in turn further increase demand, Zehmke said. - Sapa