15 Minutes with Ramon Thomas

This interview was compiled for a weekly feature in the Daily Dispatch newspaper in East London:

Online behaviour expert Ramon Thomas talks to the Dispatch about technology and how it affects you. Profiles will appear at www.dispatch.co.za

Q: YOU describe yourself as being an online behaviour expert. What does that entail?
A: My field of research is the overlap between psychology, human behaviour and technology, especially the Internet.
It includes how we use the technology and how it changes our emotional, mental, physical and spiritual states.
New research from a book, iBrain, shows greater use of different parts of the brain, improved multi-tasking and the ability to process more information, faster, in the new generation called digital natives – basically people born post 1990.

Q: You’ve done a lot of research into online dating. Can you share some of your findings with us?
A: Recent reports claim online dating is growing by more than 300 percent in South Africa. Female users are growing at twice the rate of male users from what I’ve seen since 2005. The demographics have also changed to be more representative of the South Africa population as more black users turn to the Internet to find love.

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Cellphone banking surges

February 2, 2010 :- Cellphone banking has surged in the past year, as South African consumers gain confidence in their handheld devices as a tool for both communications and efficiency.

Among urban cellphone users, 44% now use cellphone banking services, compared to 27% a year earlier, according to the Mobility 2011 research project conducted by World Wide Worx and backed by First National Bank. In smaller centres and towns, 27% now use cellphone banking, suggesting that rural areas lag urban users by about a year in take-up of these services. In total, 37% of South Africans in urban and rural areas aged 16 and above now use cellphone banking.

“Our predominant customer base resides within the mainstream market: 65% of FNB’s 2.6 million customer base earns less than R100 000 per annum and are between the ages of 18 – 40 years old. Cellphone Banking is becoming the preferred alternative as people across the board are driven by the ‘anywhere, anytime’ concept of banking.” says Ravesh Ramlakan, CEO FNB Cellphone Banking Solutions

Usage of cellphone banking peaks in the 26-34 age group, at 41%, and drops to 11% in the over-45 group. Male usage far outpaces that of females, at 56% against 44%. While education is a factor in usage of cellphone banking, with 43% of cellphone banking users having matric, and 38% with post-matric qualifications, the biggest proportion of cellphone banking users – no less than 27% – earn less than a R1000 a month.

The vast majority of cellphone banking customers still use the basic services, such as balance enquiries (78%) and notifications (58%).

However, transactional services are for the first time major components of cellphone banking services, with half of respondents buying airtime, 24% paying accounts, and 17% transferring funds between accounts. Emerging Mobile commerce transactions such as purchases and sending money to another persons’ cellphone are also appearing on the radar screen for the first time. 12% of cellphone banking users also sending money to other individuals, and 11% making a purchase via their cellphone.

For most of these services, urban respondents are far more likely to have made use of them, except in the case of sending airtime to someone: 33% of rural users of cellphone banking have done so, versus 22% of urban users.

“Products like the FNB eWallet are allowing us to bridge the gap between the banked and the unbanked and address the real need of access to financial services. This also allows for the transfer of cash and airtime to be done safely and easily.” says Yolande van Wyk CEO of FNB Smart Services.

Most of this growth in usage comes off the back of another surprising finding: more than 80% of cellphone banking users are satisfied with the security of cellphone banking. The proportion of urban users slightly outweighs that of rural users, but not significantly so.

“Previous studies had shown satisfaction with security as below 60%, indicating that market education and experience has made the difference in uptake,” says Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx.

The Mobility 2011 project comprises two reports, namely the Mobile Consumer in SA 2011 and the Mobile Internet in SA 2011. It is based on face-to-face interviews with a nationally representative sample of South Africans, conducted towards the end of 2010.