Mobile surpasses traditional web in South Africa

It’s what we predicted would happen. In fact it’s what we thought had happened sometime ago, but here are some authoritative figures that confirm it.

According to a piece in Bizcommunity, Rick Joubert of Vodafone estimates there are now at least 9,5-million mobile wap users (read: mobile web) in the country. These are combined user figures on all the local cellphone networks. In comparison, Online Publisher Association (OPA) statistics of traditional desktop web SA users, puts the local-only usership figure at around 5,7-million users. (Audited Nielsen//Netratings). Arthur Goldstuck’s figures on general internet use are also near the OPA estimates, at around 4.4-million for 2008.

Now that’s quite a difference. So it means we now have around double the amount of cellphone net users in the country as opposed to classic desktop internet — and there is also every indication that the gap will grow bigger, given the reach and penetration rates of mobile phones, and the paradoxical situation whereby mobile internet access is amongst the world’s cheapest here, yet traditional desktop internet access among the world’s most expensive.

South Africa Internet Access*

Mobile web 9,5m Sept 2008 Figures from 3 networks,
via Vodafone
Desktop web 4,4m-5,7m July 2008 Figures from 37+ sites, via OPA;
Goldstuck via ISPs.

Read the rather extensive footnote disclaimer on these figures.*

These figures are significant, but obviously no surprise. Some will counter that we are measuring apples with oranges and that we cannot compare the two figures as they are arrived at via different methodologies. Also the Vodafone figures are unaudited. However, I think this tells a broad story — with supporting evidence.

We heard about Japan some time ago where around 70% of internet access happens via mobile phones. Also we’ve been hearing from various quarters about South Africa showing up all over the world in stats, from Admob to Opera, as a major mobile player. Opera mobile reported that for July 2008, South Africa jumped to 6th place in their top 10 list of countries, displacing China and the United States respectively. We wait to see if it’s the early adopter effect typical of this country, or something more sustainable. There is a feeling it’s more of the latter this time.

* OPA figures include office and home user duplication. They are mainly SA users. Figures audited by Nielsen//Netratings and represent UB’s of top 37+ online publishers in SA.
* Vodafone figures not audited. Figures appear to be only from network stats and not broader industry, so figures may actually be conservative. It’s not clear in Vodafone’s figures whether these are mobile internet, or mobile web (a subset of mobile internet).

Matthew Buckland: Publisher


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