Opportunity still knocking for South Africa’s growing online community
By Robert Sussman, joint CEO, Integr8 Group
If one reviews the history of Internet development in South Africa and the advent of ‘internetworking’ the opportunity truly lies in our hands – or at our fingertips to be precise.
From an online growth point of view, the country is on par with international trends, and the Internet is the epicenter of growing interest and investment in cloud computing, managed services and unified communications.
Focus on access to resources, skills development, efforts to address the digital divide and improve computer literacy have all helped to improve the country’s overall online status.
Online research *(Internet World Stats www.internetworldstate.com) suggests that in 2000, during a time of intense speculation about Information Technology, services and service providers, there were 2,4 million users in the country.
Recent online statistics available suggest the figure was 5 million in 2008 and the number of users is expected to increase to 9 million by 2014.
Statistics show what retailers and service providers within the online space have realised for some time – that the percentage of users and penetration of Internet usage in South Africa is rising.
Internet Service Providers have mushroomed and continue to seek ways to partner and engage with both local companies, as well as those from abroad hoping to find a firm footing in the local market.
Interestingly, the Internet in South Africa has come full circle. In the early days growth was fuelled by commercial interest – which, at the time, was more of a priority than establishing widespread consumer connectivity.
Although the maturity of Internet and service provision has brought the consumer firmly into the picture, the Internet is still a foundation resource for business and driver behind commerce across a variety of industry and sectors.
There have been a few milestones in the development of the Internet, from its humble beginnings within academic circles, to mainstream application throughout society.
Reflection of how far the country has come in terms of Internet connectivity is thought provoking.
The 90s represented a busy period for the growth of Internet in South Africa. It was in this decade when the co.za domain was established.
This period was also significant because this was when the first Internet protocol connection was made.
Since then much has been accomplished in terms of Internet regulation, software and hardware. Managed services and virtualization has changed the way we engage online, the regulation framework that lies at the heart of corporate governance continues to make an impact on the Internet.
Blogs, Twitter, social websites, Internet connectivity over the phone, VoIP (Voice over IP), are indicative of an online-based market that is gaining momentum.
Ongoing interest in undersea cabling and the aggressive positioning of telecommunication service providers also bodes well for the increase availability and lower cost of broadband.
Although fibre is still in the process of being established in commerce and its relevance still focused on the desktop, the opportunity for rollout into the home is there.
In the next two years we will see an increase in adoption and application of fibre into the home, representing a gateway for broadband facilitation and multi-media consumer-focused technology integration.
This will result in the introduction of rich applications within the SoHo environment, and the cability to use voice-based technology a great deal more than has been the case until now. Speed and reliability mean that exciting times lie ahead
E-commerce is also taking off, with more than eighty percent of domestic users engaging in online trade.
The fact is that the explosion of social networking and mobile computing, as well as improved access to resources, has influenced the continued development and enforcement of regulation.
The King III Report, ECT Act and Protection of Personal Information law are just some examples of legislation that help to govern Internet usage in the workplace.
Market activity and consumer behaviour is heavily dependent on Internet connectivity. This is a core thread in the broader fabric of society.