SA census reveals poor Internet penetration

Statistics South Africa released the results of its 2011 census this week, showing there is significant work still to be done in order to meet ICT Vision 2020 targets in terms of Internet penetration and improving majority household comforts.

Households with access to Internet crept in at 35.2 percent, with 64.8 percent of households having no access at all. This will ring alarm bells for the government since it aims to ensure 100 percent coverage as part of the ICT Vision 2020.

Of the 35.2 percent that claimed to have Internet connection, only 8.6 percent said they had connection at home, with the majority – 16.3 percent – using their mobile phone and 4.7 percent relied on work-place internet access.

Though somewhat outdated – the census having been compiled in 2011 – the figures show that the government is nowhere near to its target achieving 100 per cent penetration.

These disappointing figures could be explained by the lack of access to power highlighted in the census. The 2011 census reveals that only 84.7 percent of households use electricity for lighting, with 11.4 percent of households still reliant upon candles and 3 percent use paraffin. These figures show improvement from the 2007 results, though 21 percent of South Africans still rely on wood and paraffin for cooking.

Similarly, households using electricity for cooking moved up to 73.9 per cent in 2011 from 66 per cent in the 2007 census, but once again, 12.5 per cent of households still rely on wood, and 8.5 per cent on paraffin.

In terms of household electrical consumer goods ownership, the population’s reported figures for 2011 show that, with the exception of mobile phones, very few households in South Africa own consumer electronics.

Only 21.4 percent of the population lives in a household which has a computer, a very low figure though an increase on the 2007 census figure of 15.6 percent and a significant growth as compared to the 2001 census which reported 8.5 percent of households with a computer.

The trends reported in terms of telephony show a steady decline in fixed-line connections and radio ownership, but a spike in mobile phone use familiar across the whole of Africa over recent years.

The census reports that 14.5 percent of households have a landline telephone, down from 18.5 percent in 2007, and 23.9 percent in 2001.

However, mobile phone penetration has seen a boom over the past decade in particular, with 88.9 percent of households recording mobile phone use in 2011, up slightly from 72.7 percent in 2007, and a hugely increased figure as compared to the 2001 census which showed 31.9 percent mobile phone penetration.

In terms of entertainment electronics, the census reports 67.5 percent of households own a radio in 2011, decreasing from 76.5 percent in 2007, which conversely was an increase as compared to the 2001 figure of 72.1 percent.

Satellite televisions (in a working condition) were present in only 25.8 percent of households in 2011, while 59.3 percent of the population lives in a household that owns a working DVD player.

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