RealTime IT News

SA's Internet Penetration Higher Than Latin America, Asian Pacific

[Johannesburg, SOUTH AFRICA] According to Internet Service Provider M-Web, over 6 percent of South Africa's national population accesses the World Wide Web, a penetration rate exceeding that of any other country in Africa, Latin America or in the Asian Pacific region.

With MediaAfrica's recent Internet Services Survey placing Internet users in South Africa at 1.82 million during 1999, South Africans form the bulk of the 2.58 million Internet users on a continent of over 750 million people.

A mere 6 percent of the population might not suggest a prolific penetration rate when compared to those in developed regions, but when seen against the Asian Pacific and Latin American perspective, it is considerable. The Asian Pacific region boasts over 68.9 million users but with demographics indicating a population in excess of one billion, the percentages remain slim.

This is expected to change in the near future, however, as Internet users in the region increase at an almost logarithmic rate. Of the 12.3 million Chinese Internet users, for example, 6-9 million (56 percent) ventured online for the first time during 1999. Japanese Internet users are expected to account for 20 percent of that country's population by the end of this year, with the 8 percent who currently access the Web over their cellphones also tipped for a sustantial increase.

Latin American countries, despite the increased 1999 Internet volumes (up 136 percent) are not expected to compete with the growth levels in Asia. Brazil, the regional leader, now has 6 million Internet users more than South Africa, but a mere fraction of the population at 0.03 percent.

These demographic sketches fade into obscurity, however, when placed against the larger canvas of the U.S. and Europe. With over 111.25 million users online in the U.S., the online penetration rate in that country tops 43 percent of the population. Europe, with 83.3 million people wired to the Internet, boasts an online contingent of over 34 percent of the continent's population.

According to M-Web, who provides dial-up services to over 700,000 local users, South African users will not reach these levels unless key issues are addressed. These include the cost of computer equipment and the lack of publicly available Internet facilities. The ISP believes, however, that innovations such as the Dot ZA internet kiosks and the development of WAP and the wireless internet could remedy the situation to some extent.