South Africa Online – By The Numbers

As technology advances in even bigger leaps from year to year, it becomes easier to get more of the world’s population online. Internet penetration – that is, the number of people who have access to the internet – is currently sitting at about 42%, or 3.01 billion of the 7.2 billion people in the world. That’s a 21% increase on last year’s figures, with 525 million new people coming online in the past 12 months.

In a recently released report on the global state of the internet, London-based social media agency We Are Social broke down the online numbers according to country for 2015.  Based on their data, here are the numbers for South Africa.

Since last year there’s been a massive 24% increase in the number of internet users, bringing us to 24.9 million people online – up from the roughly 20 million online last year.

The country with the highest rate of internet penetration is Canada, with 93% of its population online, and the country with the lowest rate is India, where only 19% of the population have internet access. Here in South Africa we have 46% internet penetration, slightly above the global average of 42%.

Now, even though India and Nigeria have the lowest rates of internet penetration, they’re the countries that use their phones the most. In South Africa, 67% of all pageviews come from mobile phones – the third highest after Nigeria’s 76% and India’s 72%. This could have something to do with the fact that, even though there are only 54 million people in our country, there are 79.1 million mobile connections. It’s also interesting to note that prepaid cellular services dominate the market with 83% of users opting for a pay-as-you-go service and only 17% taking out contracts.

We also come in at fifth place when it comes to the amount of time we spend online. Where the global average number of hours spent online is 4.4 hours on a laptop/desktop device and 2.7 hours on a mobile device, South Africans spend an average of 5.1 hours accessing the internet on a computer and 3.1 hours on mobile internet every day.

Social Media in 2015

We’ve also seen a 20% increase in the number of active social media accounts. This equates to about 12 million people who actively use a social media account, a jump up from the reported 9 million people on social media last year.

The most popular social network in South Africa is the mobile chat app-based network Whatsapp. 31% of the country’s population use this app to chat to family and friends. Facebook, last year’s top social network, trails behind slightly with 26% of the population using it. Coming in third is Google+ with 15% of the population, a sharp drop from the next highest.

How We Use our Phones

Social media is also what we use our phones for the most in this country, with 29% of the population using mobile apps to access their social media accounts.

Mobile gaming is the least popular use for our phones, with only 14% of the population playing games on the go.

The other popular uses for mobile phones are viewing video content (23% of the population do this) and making use of mobile banking services (21% of the population).

From these figures it’s impossible to deny the dominance of mobile internet in South Africa (and the rest of the African continent, for that matter). With 79.1 million mobile connections vs the 54 million person population, there are nearly 1and a half phones per person in the country. And the rise of cheaper smartphone handsets will only make this number grow over the next few years. Now we just need to hold out for cheaper call and data rates.