'Phenomenal' growth recorded in SA web use

Internet usage in South Africa is skyrocketing. The number of active South African browsers on the web has grown by 121% from 1,8-million in May 2005 to 3,9-million in May this year. In the same period, the number of page impressions grew by 129% from 91-million to 207-million.

These are the key findings of South Africa’s Exploding Internet a research report released on Monday by Nielsen//NetRatings, a global leader in internet media and market research.

“In terms of the number of people using the internet, the most developed markets in the northern hemisphere have seen a plateauing of growth over the last year or so. In contrast, South Africa has seen phenomenal expansion—growing by around 50% in each of the last two years,” explains Alex Burmaster, internet analyst at Nielsen//NetRatings.

“This type of growth is, of course, something we have seen across all markets as the internet has taken hold and moved away from a niche activity to a very mainstream form of media and the integral part of life.”

Striking in the research findings is the huge share of English speakers within the South African internet population. English is primarily spoken at home by about two million South Africans, which adds up to 52% of the internet population. The other big chunk is taken by Afrikaans at 28%, leaving African languages far behind.

Says Burmaster: “The majority of the internet population speaks English and the vast majority of online content is English. While the South African internet is experiencing huge growth in this area, the opportunity for hyper-audience growth in the future lies in targeting African-language speakers.”

Among South African web users, 22% have a degree and 15% have a postgraduate degree. There are slightly more men (54%) than women, and the age group of 18 to 29 years old accounts for 35% of users.

Unsurprisingly, 44% of the South African internet population lives in Gauteng and 18% in Cape Town. The rest of the web users are scattered throughout South Africa.

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