Digital Content

On a recent visit to South Africa, we asked technology pundit Arthur Goldstuck to name five important things happening in South Africa. He actually named four. Some are obvious but others will surprise you.

The collapse of the SNO Process. It’s almost a year after the end of the monopoly and we don’t even have the prospect of the SNO being approved. All the talk of "fast track" is just that, talk. It’s a major disappointment to all providers of connectivity and it closes down major options for the development of connectivity.

The consolidation of the ISP market between 3 corporate ISPs (IS, UUNet and Telkom SAIX) and 3 dial-up companies (Mweb, World Online/Tiscali and Telkom Internet). It means that there is now a much more stable environment with clearer choices. In the dial-up environment, the corporate ISPs are rolling out virtual ISPs allowing almost anyone to become an ISP. There’s currently about 200 of them, from insurance companies and banks to special interest groups like the arts and the legal fraternity.

Mweb has cut its "burn-rate" although its cost structure is still high. Almost all the other ISPs are now profitable and the big guys are making money.

The advent of mobile. This has not had a direct impact on connectivity but it has opened the visions of the industry to the possibilities of the future. Everyone is integrating mobile solutions into their offerings.

Sales have already peaked at around the 13 million mark, which is about a third of the population. It’s close to saturation level. The industry now has the challenge of getting to niche audiences, like the more rural audiences. The question is can it be more effectively catered for? If the answer is yes, then will be continuous growth. Also if you can reach niche markets like those who could buy but thus far have chosen not to.

The internet is increasingly becoming part of any business process. E-mail is now a standard business tool. This has been coming for a long time. Therefore when your connectivity slows down, your business slows down. Although there are currently only about a dozen significant B2B sites almost all of the 450 major companies in South Africa have significant internet infrastructure. If there’s a significant outage these companies slow down. These outages might be power or connectivity. You can cover power outages with a back-up generator but if Telkom goes down, there’s nothing currently you can do. There are half days down at different exchanges. It’s not a Nigerian situation but it does happen. 9/11 showed us that we don’t have enough redundancy.