Minister of Communications Ayanda Dlodlo Picture: Supplied
Cape Town - The high cost of mobile data in South Africa came to the fore again on Wednesday at the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa when Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo called on mobile companies to significantly lower their data prices to enable the youth to participate in the digital economy.

Dlodlo said access to affordable data was critical for the youth and the poor to access opportunities that the government offered, and equipping the youth to find their feet in the digital age.

“The data costs are just too high. Mobile companies must come to the party and lower their data costs as the poor are the ones who are most adversely affected by the high cost of data. For example, we can’t gain much traction in areas like e-learning if our people can’t afford to purchase data,” Dlodlo pointed out.

The issue of the costs of data has been a bone of contention in the country, as many observers believe that data bundles in South Africa are excessively high compared to other countries across the world.

According to research company Tariffic, South Africa had the second highest data contract prices among a select group of seven countries.

The company compared data prices customers pay with those in Brazil, Russia, India, China, Kenya and Australia.

Tariffic said once prices were converted to rand, South Africa was consistently the second most expensive for 1GB, 2GB and 3GB bundles with Brazil being the most expensive.

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Last year, Parliament’s portfolio committee on telecommunications and postal services held a two-day hearing on South Africa’s mobile data costs. The hearings were sparked by #Datamustfall.

Earlier this year, President Jacob Zuma also weighed in on the high costs of data in the country during his State of the Nation Address.

Zuma had said lowering the costs of mobile data were high on the government’s agenda. But he did not say how the government would achieve it.

Meanwhile, results from the WEF Human Capital Index released yesterday showed that 41 percent of all work activities in South Africa were susceptible to automation and 39 percent of core skills required across occupations would be wholly different by 2020.

The report said economies across sub-Saharan Africa had not fully leveraged the opportunities offered by technical and vocational education and training colleges, with enrolment standing at only 6 percent in the region.

WEF head of education, gender and work. Saadia Zahidi. said it was important to equip the youth with digital skills.

“The data shows that, to prepare for the future of work, the region must expand its high-skilled talent pool by developing future-ready curricula, with particular emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics education; increase digital fluency and information and communication technologies literacy across the population; provide robust and respected technical and vocational education; and create a culture of learning."