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Broadband in SA needs to dramatically improve – report

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South Africa’s internet infrastructure is a great concern for the country’s growing number of hybrid and remote workers, according to a recent report commissioned by networking hardware company Cisco.

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SOUTH Africa’s internet infrastructure was a great concern for the country’s growing number of hybrid and remote workers, according to a recent report, Broadband Index research, commissioned by networking hardware company Cisco.

The global report, which focused on how households were using the internet and what they believed should be the role of the government in ensuring internet connectivity for the masses, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, found that some nine in 10 (90 percent) respondents, who performed their role entirely from home, and 89 percent of workers, who said their job was hybrid, stated that broadband must dramatically improve if people were to work from anywhere.

The report said for its part, the South African government’s target was to ensure 80 percent of the population could get online by 2024. The SA Connect national broadband programme focuses on increasing basic minimum speed at 42,000 sites from 10Mbps to 100Mbps to aid the drive for planned universal connectivity.

The stated aim of policymakers was to “forge a new economy in a new global reality”, using a mix of public and private finance. Respondents agreed at 87 percent that access to fast, reliable internet was critical to South Africa’s future economic growth.

A further 88 percent of workers felt that speedy and stable networks are vital to develop a well-educated and informed population. Meanwhile, nine in 10 (90 percent) declared everyone should be able to securely connect to fast, reliable internet when in public places or while on the move, regardless of their location.

A total of 63 percent of respondents said they were unable to access critical services such as online medical appointments, online education, social care and utility services during lockdown, due to an unreliable broadband connection. Consequently, 86 percent would like to see the national infrastructure plans sped up to meet the growing demand.

Some key takeaways on this study were that 86 percent of the respondents said accelerating plans to create better connectivity across the country is vital. Some 90 percent of respondents performing their role from home are demanding dramatic improvements to connectivity. Three or more people used the internet at the same time in 62 percent of households. Some 63 percent said not being able to access reliable internet during lockdown prevented them from accessing critical services.

The report also said affordability of connecting to reliable broadband will become a headache for the local population according to more than two in three (68 percent) of respondents, while 67 percent said broadband should be provided free of charge. There was particular concern for low-income families, as 86 percent of workers believed this group was being priced out of getting online.

While 71 percent stated internet services cost too much, a large majority (68 percent) would be willing to pay more for a safer broadband connection – revealing workers were keen to ensure secure online activity. More than half (52 percent) of respondents said they would seek to upgrade their service in the next 12 months, but of those who will not, 16 percent believed it was too expensive to do so.

For three in 10 (30 percent) respondents, the speed of their domestic connection was a pain, with this proportion saying it was only average or weak. Meanwhile, almost one in four (23 percent) graded the reliability of their home broadband service as average or poor.

Household connectivity was clearly under pressure as 60 percent of respondents claim at least three people under their roof were active online simultaneously throughout the day. This was key when factoring in the 65 percent of respondents who said they either did their job or run their business from home.

Furthermore, demand was set to grow with 57 percent of workers overall claiming their household’s internet activity would increase or stay the same during the next year.

In the executive summary the report said that broadband connectivity was much more than just the ability to access the internet as it powers an individual’s access to basic needs, including healthcare and education, as well as empowers them to participate in the global economy.

According to the global survey of almost 60,000 workers across 30 markets about their home broadband access, quality and usage, economic and societal growth would not happen without universal access to fast and reliable internet.

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