Data struggle should focus on poor

Johannesburg -  South Africa's social media blackout protest yesterday, while falling flat, could highlight the struggle of especially the poor to buy cheaper data. Currently poor South Africans, unable to tap into cheaper bundle options, are paying through their nose to go online

“Data has fallen and networks can easily argue this through their bundle options, but poor people cannot afford bundles and are paying out-of-bundle rates of between R1 and R2 per megabyte which is ridiculous,” analyst Arthur Goldstuck said. “Networks are punishing poor people who are good customers."  

He said networks could only argue that data has indeed fallen, once they've brought down the ridiculous rate of out-of-bundle data.

Goldstuck firmly believed that a structured campaign was needed to ensure data becomes more affordable for the poor.  

Unfortunately yesterday's protest under the hashtag #SocialMediaBlackout seemed to have fallen on deaf ears.  The hashtag contradicted its purpose by becoming a top trend on Wednesday, when it was supposed to encourage users to boycott social networks. While some users did indeed switch off for the day, others said a day without Twitter and Facebook was simply inconceivable. 

A bigger campaign centering around the #DataMustFall campaign should be specifically geared toward lowering the cost of data for poor people, Goldstuck said. He was giving a keynote address on technology trends in Africa and South Africa at the Epicor Customer Summit, in Johannesburg, when he commented that the campaign to boycott social media was fruitless. 

READ: Why #SocialMediaBlackout failed and trended instead

Goldstuck added that in 2010 there were only 4.8 million smartphone users in South Africa, while today there were over 29 million smartphone users in the country. 

“Internet usage research tells us that there are only 21 million internet users in South Africa. This means that more than 8 million people that don’t access the internet from a smartphone, because a smartphone is expensive to run and the cost of data is too high,” he said.

READ: SA rallies against high data costs with #SocialMediaBlackout

Previously, political parties such as the EFF joined calls for a dramatic decrease in data costs through the #DataMustFall social media campaign. 

The petition was first initiated by radio personality TBo Touch, who wanted to hold mobile networks to account for the high cost of data in the country.

Read Fin24's top stories trending on Twitter:

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Company Snapshot
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

Government tenders

Find public sector tender opportunities in South Africa here.

Government tenders
This portal provides access to information on all tenders made by all public sector organisations in all spheres of government.
Browse tenders