South Africa's broadband speed is about a fifth of that of the US, according to Stanlib, but its average monthly broadband cost is over five times as high as that of the US. The average cost of broadband for a South African internet user is around R337 a month. For the average user in the UK, the cost is about R36 a month.
The internet costs in SA are ridiculously high and have been for the past decade or so. The question is, why?
- Is it to restrict or marginalize the poor from accessing information in the digital age?
- Is it because the telecommunications companies have high maintenance costs to keep the net afloat?
- Is it because the telecommunications companies are simply greedy and are only after profits?
These questions have remained unanswered for a long time. Perhaps it is about time that we challenge the government and the private sector to continue the dialogue and enrol certain plans in place to fight the forever hiking data prices.
For a moment, millions of South Africans began to hope that their cry for the costs of data to decrease was finally being noticed by the government and private sector when TBo Touch and Gareth Cliff teamed up and disposed of their resources towards the infamous #DataMustFall campaign in 2015.
Touch and Cliff had recently ventured into online radio, meaning that the success of their stations was directly influenced by the cost of data. Fewer data costs meant more streams for their radio stations and vice versa. The strange thing about the events that transpired around this particular instance continues to leave a lot of South Africans confused.
Let's not allow the cost to be the barrier preventing millions from accessing information.
A few months into the #DataMustFall campaign MTN, a South African Telecommunications Company announced that TouchCentral was to be free to every MTN subscriber. This left many unanswered questions. Stable and high-speed internet connections are highly sought after and its prices are higher than ever before and as the South African economy is slowly plunging into recession amidst political uncertainty, we are expecting the worst.
Most recently, an initiative was started to encourage users to stay off social networks for a full 24 Hours on the 21st of June 2017 under the banner #SocialMediaBlackout. It wasn't a success. The fact that it was a hashtag was Deja Vu itself. Obviously to track the engagements and the happenings around the hashtag you have to log in to social networks. I, from time to time, did go on twitter to track the engagements and the happenings around the tag. Curiosity got the better of me hey!
Internet Connectivity is considered a basic human right by the United Nations and should be easily available to everyone on the planet. After 22 years of democracy, some people in the rural areas have never been connected to the internet in their lifetime.
Let's not allow the cost to be the barrier preventing millions from accessing information. From time to time have committed myself to helping civil society organisations in any way possible. I am resolute that we will continue to commit ourselves towards an almost impossible goal of decreasing the cost of connection.