South Africa’s internet numbers don’t add up.
Last week I was fortunate to get access to 2011 Census data in Pretoria for the release of the survey. While giving myself a repetitive stain injury pulling as much data as possible from the survey (all data is not widely available yet) one of the things I did was a query looking at internet access in South Africa.
This is the first time this question has been asked in the Census and the results are quite startling because they appear to be in stark contrast with some of the accepted measures of the size of the Internet audience in South Africa. (Click around map below for council level data)
According to Census 2011:
* There are 5,231,629 households with Internet access in South Africa;
* Of these, 2,434,236 accessed the Net via their cellphones;
* Some 1,261,368 accessed the Net from home;
* Some 694,117 households had Internet access from work;
Well, households don’t tell us too much about total Internet users.
But since I have municipal level data I also pulled total populations for each municipality and then calculated average household size for each municipality and then used that figure to calculate how many people in total in each municipality might have internet access.
The resulting figure suggests that the internet population in South Africa, according to Census figures, is about 17.4 million – which is significantly higher than other estimations.
Some other figures:
* Google Public Data (citing World Bank as a source) puts internet penetration at around 21% as of 2011, or about 10.8m using our new 51,7m population estimate (see chart below);
* An authoritative report by Arthur Goldstuck’s World Wide Worx and the howzit MSN online portal recently put the number at 8,5m (http://www.timeslive.co.za/local/2012/05/10/number-of-south-african-internet-users-grows), and;
* Internet World Stats says we have 6,8m Internet users and 4,9m of them are on Facebook (http://www.internetworldstats.com/africa.htm)
So it’s easy to see that there is a yawning chasm between the internet penetration suggested by the Census and other specialist research.
Of course, my number could be overstated as I have applied the average size of household calculation to the number of households with internet access in each municipal area which doesn’t take into account things like babies and kids who don’t access the Net and so on.
My rudimentary skills also don’t allow me to calculate an alternate possible weighting for households based on income, urban location and so on so please feel free to provide an alternate analysis.
But even taking that into account it would seem, if we accept the accuracy of our Census data, that SA’s internet population is massively larger than what we may think. StatsSA’s own calculation based on the 2011 Census suggests that 35.2% of households have some access to the internet. There are 15,6m households in SA with an average of 3.4 people per household, and so do the math.
If these figures are even vaguely right it would mean that online audiences left print behind some time ago.
This raises some thoughts from a media point of view.
1. If this figure approximates the true size of the internet audience in SA does it account for the rapidly accelerating decline of print newspaper circulation, particularly of dailies?
2. Why is Internet advertising spend moving so slowly to the web (still only around 2.7% of total adspend in SA)
3. What does an audience of this assumed size offer new and emerging publishers as well as established media players?
MY TOP 10 RANKING OF INTERNET PENETRATION BY MUNICIPALITY
||Total Access to Internet
||Households No access to internet
||Average household size
||People with acess based on average household
||Internet Penetration % of total population
| City of Tshwane
| City of Cape Town
| City of Johannesburg
| Tlokwe City Council
Google on SA Internet Access