SADC not Bridging the Digital Divide
Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are recognised by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states as enablers of stronger economic development. Yet, these countries are still grappling with slow and unreliable broadband access even after the deployment of undersea fibre cables. The majority of rural area residents remain unconnected nonetheless. According to the ITU statistical dataset (2017), Internet penetration in Africa is very low compared to other continents. As of 2017, only 21.8% of African residents have used the Internet compared to 43.7% in the Arab States, 43.9% in the Asia/Pacific region, 67.7% in the CIS, 79.6% in Europe and 65.9% in the Americas. The digital gap can be explained by unaffordable services and Internet-enabled devices. The pricing information from RIA shows that the cost of 1GB of prepaid mobile data in the SADC region is higher than in the best-performing countries with only two countries, Mozambique and Tanzania, being among the best-performing countries. Affordability is clearly an inhibiting factor to Internet penetration in the SADC region. The high prices are the result of minimal competition in the market as well as high taxes on Internet-enabled devices.