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Could greater access to the internet build SA’s first digital economy

FILE - With the rise of everyday living spurred by the surge in the petrol price, a first digital economy that will be beneficial for South Africans dependent on greater access to internet connectivity. Picture: AFP

FILE - With the rise of everyday living spurred by the surge in the petrol price, a first digital economy that will be beneficial for South Africans dependent on greater access to internet connectivity. Picture: AFP

Published Jul 4, 2022

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Johannesburg - A first digital economy could significantly transform processes, increase efficiency for businesses, and grow the economy when South Africa needs it most, according to experts.

With the rise of everyday living spurred by the surge in the petrol price, a digital first economy will be beneficial for South Africans dependent on greater access to internet connectivity, especially in unserviced regions.

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Megan Nicholas, managing director of internet service provider (ISP) Supersonic, told IOL that beyond the hurdle of connectivity, a digital economy could allow corporations to transform services, adopting more digital processes by replacing certain manual processes.

“Access to the internet remains out of reach for many South Africans today. As South Africa moves closer to a digital economy, we will start to see exponential growth in the connectivity online amongst people, businesses, new online business models, and new processes. The big dependency is connectivity and ensuring that all South Africans have access to high-speed internet,” she said.

Meanwhile, statistics platform, Statista reported that as of 2022, the share of the total population of South Africa using the internet was nearly 80 percent.

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The country’s internet usage is expected to grow to 90 percent by 2027, an increase of 28 percent compared to 2018, when the share of the population accessing the internet in the country was 62 percent.

Nicholas also highlighted how the lockdown brought on by the Covid pandemic has acted as a catalyst in the usage of the internet and digitalisation, with many working from home while others have managed to build businesses during this time.

“We are faced with continuous change in this country and globally, and one of the most fundamental and significant drivers for change is digital transformation. Covid accelerated our digital journey, forced laggards to embrace digital transformation, and forced people to work, shop and communicate differently,” she said.

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A digital economy will allow corporations to transform services, adopt more digital processes by replacing certain manual processes, and do things better and more efficiently. This will, in turn provide a better product and service to South African consumers, enabling growth in our economy.

Despite this, the lockdown has proved to be a springboard for many who created thriving businesses during the lockdown, thanks to the internet.

Nicholas said that greater connectivity to the internet could spearhead more possibilities.

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“The internet also opens up a world of possibilities for all South Africans. Digital access gives ordinary people the ability to shop from their handsets and brings the world to them without leaving home,” she said.

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