SA’s 26.8 million internet users spend almost three hours a day on social media

The number of South Africans actively accessing the internet grew by 1.9 million from 24.9 million in January 2015 to 26.8 million in January 2016. So how have our internet usage habits changed over a year?

We Are Social published its annual Digital report, having collected already existing data from various sources to compile a snapshot into internet usage across 30 countries around the world, including South Africa.

Global active internet usage grew 10% in 2016, adding 332 million more users, while Africa saw 42.7 million more active users being added.
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Internet users in South Africa

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Just under 50% of the total population (26.84 million representing 49%) in South Africa is considered an active internet user. Active social media users across web and mobile stand at 13 million (24%), while mobile social media users stand at 10 million (18%).

There are 85.53 million mobile connections in South Africa, which means there are quite a number of people with more than one connected SIM card linked to them.

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Prepaid vs contract customers

Prepaid is still, by far, the most common payment option among South Africans at 84% of mobile connections, 3G and 4G connections are still below 50% at only 41%.

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How have the numbers increased in one year?

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Surprisingly, while the first three above main categories grew by 5% and above, the number of mobile social media users decreased by 6%. The report doesn’t give any reasons for this decline and it’s interesting to note that this goes against the trend of the continent’s growth in mobile social media users.

Who’s using what device to go online?

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The majority (92%) of South Africa’s adult population owns a phone whether dumb, feature or smartphone. Smartphone’s take the lion’s share of this majority at 60%. Only 3% own a TV streaming product (e.g Apple TV) and 1% own a wearable.

How much time do we spend online?

An average South African spends just under five hours a day online. Since this stat isn’t broken down into specifics, we’re assuming time spent online at work is also counted.

Note how time spent on social media and watching TV are almost exactly the same amount. This may be due to what the digital world calls using a “second screen”, that is, tweeting, Whatsapping or Facebooking etc., while watching something on TV.Screenshot (104)

A total 59% of active internet users are online more than once a day, while 3% only use it once a month.

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The most popular social media

The top ten most popular social media among South Africans has remained almost the same, with WhatsApp and Facebook holding to the top two spots.

However, Twitter dropped down to sixth place from fifth place last year, while LinkedIn took its fifth place spot, up from sixth in 2015.

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Most of Facebook’s users in South Africa are between the ages of 20 and 29 (41%). Senior citizens above the age of 60 account for 7% of users.

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Instant messaging through platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and BBM, remains the most popular internet activity for mobile users (36%), followed by using map services such as Google Maps (29%) and watching videos (28%). Mobile banking follows closely behind at 26%

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“It’s worth noting that the jump in internet users may be partly the result of improved reporting, rather than representing absolute growth in user numbers,” We Are Social said on its site. “We’ve also managed to obtain reliable numbers for social media in countries where previously we had no data, but the overall growth story is still highly compelling despite these caveats.”

You can read the full report and see how South Africa compares to the rest of the world, on We Are Social.


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