Lagging ICT adoption in SA reflects social and economic inequalities

Policy Brief 2: Africa Digital Policy, 2018

Increasing Internet connections suggest a bridging of the digital divide yet, as more people are connected, digital inequality paradoxically increases. Inequality exists not only between people online and offline, but also between those who have the skills and financial resources to use the Internet optimally, and those who do not. Without policy interventions to reduce these disparities offline inequalities will simply be mirrored online – or potentially even amplified. Many individuals and households do not use the Internet or do not have the devices to access the Internet. RIA’s 2017 After Access Survey finds that South Africa has the highest mobile phone (84%) and Internet penetration rates (53%) of the seven countries surveyed, but not when compared with all sixteen countries surveyed across the Global South.


1. Although South Africa has far more Internet users than other African countries, half of the population is still offline.

2. The 50 percent that are online earn more than ZAR 7 167 a month.

3. The lack of Internet-enabled devices and digital literacy, both of which are associated with poverty, are the main barriers to getting online.

4. Mobile phone penetration among owners of informal and/or small businesses is very high (93%), yet less than a fifth of them use of mobile phones for business processes and management.

5. A perceived lack of need for the Internet as well as it being unaffordable are the main inhibitors of internet use among small and informal businesses.

6. The 2017 After Access Survey shows that in the seven countries surveyed, the micro-work penetration rate is as low as 2 percent, with only 7 percent of Internet users doing micro-work. Only 10% of Internet users in South Africa do platform-work.

Suggested citation

Mothobi, O., & Gillwald, A. (2018). Lagging ICT adoption in SA reflects social and economic inequalities (Policy Brief No. 2; Africa Mobile Pricing). Research ICT Africa.