South Africa: Mobile social the new you

Mobile usage, especially for social networking, has increased dramatically, with a majority of people preferring prepaid access rather than fixed contracts, a new report reveals.

RLabs using mobile technologyRLabs making a difference with mobile technology

The South African Mobile Usage report, based on a survey of 5180 people, explores the sources of demand for mobile usage, including what factors would sustain and increase this demand.

The report was compiled by Reconstructed Living Lab (RLabs), a global social enterprise that provides innovative solutions to address social problems.

“Mobile usage in the country has gone up,” said Rene Parker, a director of RLabs. “The obvious reason is internet – fixed internet is expensive in this country, but everyone has access to a mobile phone.”

It reveals an impressive increase in mobile internet usage and mobile chat among the youth and young adults of South Africa.

More than 28% of those sampled in the survey said they used mobile phones to chat while about 23% used mobile web.

And young people The New Age spoke to confirmed that social networking took preference over traditional forms of communication for young people. Kas Dziamski, 28, said he could not imagine life without social networking.

“It is a recreational activity, for me – like watching a movie,” he said, adding that chatting via Facebook was more user friendly than using traditional email.

“Email is more formal, I never use my phone for that. Chatting via social networks is much easier and it does not require you to be a genius.”

Lerato Moeti, 22, from Johannesburg, said she could not imagine life without her phone. “I use my phone for everything, texts, meeting up with friends and catching up with long-lost family,” she said.

Facebook, Twitter and Blackberry Messenger are rated the most popular social networking platforms. Chatting away and staying connected to their contacts also have some effect on their ability to focus on studies.

Tshegofatso Modise knows all too well about this. “I’m on Facebook, Mxit and Twitter every day. Even when I study, whether it’s for a test or an exam, you’ll find me on Twitter and Facebook. I study and chat at the same time.”

Therese Meyer, the commercial director of Regus Africa, believes the phenomenal growth of social networks has also had an effect on business, with positive results.

“The psychological effect on business and public life has been immense. There really is a new climate of openness and organisations that have failed to adapt have gone under,” she said.

The report urges telecoms companies like Vodacom, MTN and Cell C to devise innovative ways to help youth and young adults consume more mobile data by leveraging their growing appetite for social networks and media.

When it came to satisfaction, Cell C came out tops with 42.8% saying it was their preferred service provider – 30.2 % liked MTN, the country’s largest operator Vodacom garnered 25.8% and 8ta and Virgin mobile got 0.8 and 0.4% respectively.

Local operators are already benefiting from the growth of data usage. Vodacom confirmed that data had become key to its success during its latest results presentation. The operator has 9 million data customers and is aiming to reach 25 million within the next two years.

Vodacom’s data revenue has grown by 34% to R6.2bn in the past financial year. In South Africa, internet penetration is expected to grow by 30% this year, according to analysts.

The growth of internet in the country has further been precipitated by the increase in undersea cables linking South Africa with the rest of the world. Mobile web has also become easier, said the analysts,

The country has now surpassed the 10% mark on internet penetration, partly due to the presence of these new cables.

Source – The New AgeSamuel Mungadze and Itumeleng Mafisa