Home » Digital divide deepens: South Africa struggles with high broadband prices

Digital divide deepens: South Africa struggles with high broadband prices

by Corridor Africa CEO Matone Ditlhake

by Tia

Despite many efforts to improve broadband infrastructure and to reduce costs, ensuring affordable broadband remains a formidable challenge, particularly for households with limited income. This obstacle to affordability perpetuates a digital divide, hindering the country’s potential for holistic socio-economic advancement.

Concerted efforts from various stakeholders aim to address these challenges and pave the way for a more accessible and equitable digital future.

Corridor Africa CEO Matone Ditlhake

One of the pivotal figures in this endeavour is Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies Mondli Gungubele, tasked with spearheading initiatives to enhance internet accessibility and reduce the cost of connectivity.

With ambitious targets set for 2024, including ensuring 80 percent of the population has internet access and issuing a policy direction for 5G, the government is signalling its commitment to bridging the digital gap.

Although mobile devices are the predominant mode of internet access, concerns persist regarding the affordability of data. South Africa falls short of the UN Broadband Commission’s affordability threshold, with 1GB of data consuming over 2% of the average monthly income for many citizens.

The #DataMustFall movement, echoing sentiments of discontent with elevated pricing, underscores the urgency for action.

To address these challenges, a multifaceted approach is necessary:

  • Infrastructure investment: Increasing investment in broadband infrastructure, particularly in underserved areas, is crucial. Public-private partnerships, as demonstrated in Rwanda and Kenya, can facilitate cost-effective expansion, fostering greater inclusivity.
  • Regulatory framework: Implementing regulatory reforms that promote competition can drive down prices and improve service quality. India’s experience with Reliance Jio exemplifies the transformative impact of policy changes on data affordability.
  • Innovative technology solutions: Embracing innovative technologies, such as low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, holds promise for expanding connectivity at lower costs. Companies like SpaceX have showcased the potential of such initiatives.
  • Subsidies and financial incentives: Targeted subsidies and tax incentives can incentivise investment in underserved areas and alleviate financial burdens for consumers. Lessons from countries like Australia underscore the efficacy of such interventions in fostering broadband uptake.
  • Digital literacy and adoption: Access to broadband must be complemented by efforts to enhance digital literacy and skills development. Integrating digital education into national curricula, as seen in South Korea, can empower individuals to leverage connectivity effectively.
  • Consumer advocacy: Engaging consumers in the policymaking process and advocating for their interests can drive meaningful change in broadband pricing and accessibility. European Union initiatives demonstrate the impact of consumer feedback on shaping telecommunications policy.

By embracing these strategies and leveraging lessons from global best practices, South Africa can make significant strides towards ensuring affordable broadband for all. The Government’s commitment, coupled with collaborative efforts across sectors, holds the key to unlocking the transformative potential of connectivity and narrowing the digital divide.

As South Africa forges ahead in its digital journey, placing a premium on affordability will be essential for harnessing the socio-economic advantages of a truly inclusive digital landscape.

You may also like

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed!