So, before we even begin this article, you as a reader should know some things.
- If you are reading this you are probably quite rich (at least as far as South African society goes).
- This is easy to work out because you have internet access and a device to read this on.
You can find out more about where you would fall in the South African income distribution here. Just to paint the picture, more than 90% of South African households have an income of $520 (~R 7400) or less per month.
Given that the median per capita income in South Africa is $80 (~R1,166) per month accessing a website in South Africa is very, very expensive.
A glance at the numbers:
- A very basic smartphone costs $40 (~R650) – that’s roughly half the median per capita income
- A very basic laptop costs $265 (~R3,800) – that’s almost 4x the median per capita income
- The cheapest unlimited wifi in South Africa costs $35 (~R500) – also roughly half the median per capita income
- 1GB of data in South Africa costs $10.50 per GB (~R150 per GB) – so roughly 10% of the per capita income in South Africa
These costs mean that a laptop is out of the question for most students. While saving up for a smartphone is manageable it’s not easy, and buying the mobile data to operate that smartphone is difficult.
As a result, phones are often shared among household members in Africa. Downloading apps is expensive, so people tend to use the apps that come preinstalled on their phones – like WhatsApp and Facebook messenger. These are low data to operate, and network providers often offer WhatsApp specific data at reduced rates. The outcome is that more people are using low data messenger applications than the wider internet. At FoondaMate, we bring the internet to those messenger applications and help bridge the digital divide.