Power to the people – Keeping the lights on when Eskom can’t
It’s no secret that our daily lives have become increasingly dependent on connectivity. Being able to connect with work, information, news, family and more has left us in a state of digital dependence. We carry devices with us and spend, on average, 70% of our waking day using them for a number of tasks. These all have one thing in common: the internet.
The internet has seen an exponential explosion in the past several years, aiding some of the biggest events in our modern history and creating experiences that were never possible before. Recently in South Africa, the internet has experienced the most notable growth since 2010, connecting more homes and offering more affordable, high-speed internet for everyone. Not too long ago, fibre to the home was a luxury for a few, while now it’s a standard for most homes, and more importantly, businesses. Having a reliable and fast internet connection is essential to the workplace, and the internet has created an ecosystem where the modern-day workplace can now be anywhere.
The present, in summary
What have we, as humans, accomplished in the past several years with the exponential growth in the internet? We’ve improved communication. We’ve bettered education. We’ve grown economies. We’ve influenced presidential elections. We’ve changed the way we advertise to our consumers through data capturing, albeit unethical at times. We’ve also changed the way we watch television and movies. But, most importantly, we’ve connected billions of people around the world.
A noticeable degree of the steady growth and success of commercial internet can be accredited to the connectivity infrastructure South Africa has laid in the past decade. It’s hard to drive further than two kilometres without seeing an Openserve Street Distribution Cabinet (the green boxes on the side of the road). Since Openserve’s inception as a division of Telkom in 2015, over 1.8 million fibre connections have been installed on more than two million premises. Fibre is growing and becoming more viable for homes, but over million South Africans are still connected via Openserve’s DSL network.
Two of the biggest factors which the internet has ushered in over recent years are economic and social change. The internet is changing the way our economy works and changing the way people think and interact. We’re in an age where social awareness, thanks to the readiness of information, has created an environment of informed individuals, while inversely spreading false narratives and changing the way we think. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook, in his 2017 manifesto noted: “Connecting everyone to the internet is… necessary for building an informed community.” (Ingram, 2017)
Zuckerberg offers a great summary to the internet of present: we’re informed and socially aware.
An economic force
Considering the internet’s many advantages, it’s easy to understand the impact the internet has on economic growth. However, what it has done for South Africa is especially noteworthy in terms of creating and growing businesses through connectivity. Today, anyone with a computer (or smartphone) and an internet connection can start their own business. It doesn’t matter where they live or how much they earn, the opportunity is there, and aspiring entrepreneurs have been jumping at it. If you don’t have the mindset or time to start your own business, there’s a wealth of education on the internet to help you further your current skills in the workplace. You’re able to take free lectures from Harvard, MIT and even Nobel Prize-winning professors from the comfort of your own home. You’re even able to undertake entire university degrees, diplomas and certificates online – these are just a few examples of how the internet is aiding economic growth.
One of the internet’s biggest business ventures in the past decade was has been the commercialization of the internet and growing ability of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to rent lines and data from companies like Openserve. This has ushered in a new age of business for many internet service providers, creating jobs and furthering connectivity in South Africa by creating a competitive market in the internet game and further aiding the availability and affordability of high-speed internet.
eShopWorld (2017) has revealed that South Africa’s e-commerce users are set to reach 24.79 million in 2021. Online shopping has exploded in South Africa, creating an easy outlet for retail therapy. Fashion ranks highest, currently, as the largest e-commerce market in South Africa with a projected revenue of USD12 million (R165 million). The e-commerce world is just one of many examples of economic driving forces in South Africa, and the increase in investments of small to medium enterprises has also increased over the past several years. Many investors see South Africa as presenting a valuable opportunity v due to its fast economic growth and connectivity, opening up a whole new way of doing business. And it’s all local, which is most important.
There is one other major factor to recognise when considering the economic growth of local businesses in South Africa which the internet has made possible: advertising and marketing. The ability to reach millions of people and targeted audiences through digital marketing has created endless opportunities for businesses in South Africa. Marketing was once an expensive venture for many businesses, but the internet has made it a lot easier to join a new trend of digital marketing through social media, mostly. This has created a connected market for small to medium businesses which are able to reach and talk directly to their consumers.
What the future holds
The future of the internet is boundless. It’s both humbling and frightening to consider what the internet may have in store for future generations. It’s humbling when you take into consideration the above talking points and the opportunities presented by a connected world, but at the same time, it’s rather frightening considering the most recent data-sharing scandals, raising the debate of just how much we should share online. At the moment, it’s safe to say that the pros outweigh the cons, and a connected country is far more beneficial for economic and social growth.
eShopWorld. 2017. ‘Insights into the Growth of South African eCommerce with Payment Methods, Target Audiences, Marketing, Social Media, Economy and Logistics All Profiled’. eShopWorld. [Online] Available: https://www.eshopworld.com/blog/south-africa-ecommerce-insights-2017/ (Accessed: 24 January 2019).
Ingram, M. 2017. ‘Here’s the Full Text of Mark Zuckerberg’s Manifesto’. FORTUNE. [Online] Available: http://fortune.com/2017/02/17/mark-zuckerberg-manifesto-text/ (Accessed: 24 January 2019).
Disclaimer: The views or opinions in this article do not necessarily reflect those of
It’s no secret that our daily lives have become increasingly dependent on connectivity. Being able to connect with work, information, news, family and more has left us in a state of digital dependence. We carry devices with us and spend, on average, 70% of our...
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