There is no doubt about how digital technologies have and continue to boost economies and nurture socio-economic growth. The United Nations’ Human Rights Council lists access to the internet as a human right and the 2018 Affordability Report highlights how the Sustainable Development Goals blueprint calls for a significant increase in ‘affordable, universal internet access by the year 2020 to improve socio-economic development’. With 2020 around the corner, Supersonic take a look at how we’re doing in meeting this deadline.
“If service providers continue pushing the envelope in getting communities connected, I believe the target will be well within our reach,” says Calvin Collett, Managing Director for leading fibre and FLTE provider, Supersonic. “There is enough activity happening in our industry that stands testament to the efforts being made to connect as many South Africans as possible,” says Calvin. “The real issue is that the competition for a piece of the proverbial pie is happening in major metropoles, but the digital divide that needs urgent attention lies in smaller, underserviced, outer-lying areas.”
According to the Affordability Report, which addresses internet connectivity issues globally not just in South Africa, more than half the global population does not have internet access. In South Africa, just over half (54%) of the entire population is connected to the internet. “Evidence suggests that there is a direct correlation between increased internet penetration and economic growth which offers an incredible opportunity for governments to enable communities, not to mention the educational benefits having access to the internet offers a developing nation,” says Calvin. “We will continue to face social inequality issues, however, if businesses who are in a position to affect these statistics positively don’t start the transformation process,” he says.
This year has delivered some interesting events in the telecoms space – not only among FNOs and ISPs (Fibre Network Operators and Internet Service Providers), but with the news about moving away from ADSL technologies and even mobile networks switching off their services. “Access to the internet will become even more of a challenge in 2020 with consumers needing to find alternative internet resources, so service providers need to focus their efforts on growing and strengthening network infrastructures in smaller communities across the country,” says Calvin. “Yes, it will mean we’ll need to work a bit smarter and harder, but this is where we can start making a difference and get communities connected.”
Digital technology evolutions have and will continue to grow at expeditious rates. “The price war will continue into 2020 although people will be looking for added value by way of information, conversations and simplified access to products and services,” forecasts Calvin. “Service providers need to make sure they’re delivering quality connections across their networks and they need to be looking further than just population volumes,” he concludes.