Smartphone the surprise newcomer in mobile race

Johannesburg:- Smartphones have made a dramatic entry into corporate South Africa, far surpassing general consumer use or small business use.

This is a surprise finding from a new research study released today by World Wide Worx. The Mobile Corporation in SA 2010 report reveals that three quarters of South African companies have deployed smartphones within their organisations, compared to almost none two years ago.

The study, backed by First National Bank (FNB), leaders in cellphone banking in Africa, and Research In Motion (RIM), the developer of the BlackBerry solution, shows that saturation point has almost been reached by large South African companies in the use of fixed landlines (96%) and ordinary cellphones (92%). And, as forecast in 2007, 3G data card penetration has also reached near saturation, with 94% of large companies deploying it. Now the focus has turned to integration of smartphones with business processes.

“These results show that enterprise mobility solutions are no longer just nice to have. They’re essential for businesses that want to be competitive, responsive and efficient in a world where a customer won’t wait for a salesperson who is visiting customers and where project flow can’t stop because a manager is at a full-day meeting,” says Deon Liebenberg, Regional Director for Sub Sahara Africa at RIM. “Not only does mobility allow companies to improve internal efficiencies and communications, it also enables them to interact more effectively with their increasingly mobile customers.”

The study also showed that corporate South Africa expects to embrace the new world of online services to an extent that was not even anticipated as recently as one year ago.

“Until last year, concepts like Software as a Service (SaaS) and Cloud Computing were regarded as little more than buzzwords,” says Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx.

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South Africa's Internet growth accelerates

Arthur Goldstuck researcher World Wide WorxThe number of South African Internet users has passed the 5-million mark for the first time, finally breaking through the 10% mark in Internet penetration for the country.

This is the key finding of the Internet Access in South Africa 2010 study, conducted by World Wide Worx and jointly sponsored by Cisco. The headline data, released today, shows that the Internet user base grew by 15% last year, from 4,6-million to 5,3-million, and is expected to grow at a similar rate in 2010.

“The good news is that we will continue to see strong growth in 2010, and we should reach the 6-million mark by the end of the year,” says Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx.

“A sustained growth in Internet penetration is a key factor that will positively influence the economy of South Africa”, says Reshaad Sha, Senior Manager for Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group. “The varied range of application services and social networking platforms used by local consumers has fuelled the uptake that we see today.”

Growth in the number of Internet users in South Africa was relatively stagnant from 2002 to 2007
, when it never rose above 7%. However, this rate almost doubled in 2008, and continued accelerating in 2009.

World Wide Worx found that the landing of a new undersea cable on the South African coast was only one of a range of factors behind the growth. Of greater significance was the granting of Electronic Communications Network Service licenses to more than 400 organisations. This meant that service providers that were previously required to buy their network access from one of the major providers, could now build their own networks or choose where they wanted to buy their access.

The result was that a market previously characterised by a limited range of providers and services suddenly exploded as small providers were able to repackage the services provided by the large telecommunications corporations in any way they wished. The large providers, in turn, began to offer far more competitive packages to both customers and resellers.

World Wide Worx found that a second key factor in growth over the past two years has been the continued uptake of broadband connectivity by small and medium enterprises migrating from dial-up connectivity. Each company moving from dial-up to ADSL, for example, extended Internet access to general office staff. This process was found to add an additional one to 20 new users to the Internet user base for every small business installing ADSL.

While the headline findings examine the general numbers of users, the final Internet Access in SA 2010 report, due to be released in March, will highlight the extent of new fibre-optic networks laid down across South African cities and between the cities. It will also examine the impact of the range of new undersea cables that will be in place by the end of 2011, and which is expected to enhance competitiveness even further.

“In the coming year, operators will begin to leverage the combination of new undersea cable capacity and new fibre-optic networks to supply corporate clients and resellers with bigger, faster and more flexible capacity,” says Goldstuck. “Almost every large player in the communications industry has realigned its business to take advantage of this relentless change.”

“South African consumers and businesses are demanding access to online applications and services that can only be experienced via high speed connectivity, such as fibre-optic networks. The year ahead will see the proliferation of high speed connectivity materialising more widely than ever before”, concludes Sha.

 

More people banking on their cellphones than on their PCs

The number of people banking from their cellphones has exceeded that of people banking from their PCs in South Africa, with more than a quarter of bank customers turning to their cellphones for services ranging from informational transaction types such as balance enquiries to financial transaction types which include account payments.

This was one of the key findings from the consumer phase of the Mobility 2009 research project, released today by leading market research organisation World Wide Worx. The study was backed by First National Bank (FNB), leaders in cellphone banking in Africa, and Research In Motion (RIM), the company behind the BlackBerry solution.

“It is encouraging to see that not only in FNB, but across the country, cellphone banking is now part of people’s lives,” says Len Pienaar, CEO, FNB mCommerce.

The Mobility 2009 study is being conducted in four phases, with the first three looking at the use of mobile technologies by Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), Consumers and Corporations, and the final phase exploring the Mobile Internet.

 

Democratic Alliance leads elections race in Internet performance

An in-depth analysis of the Internet strategy of the main political parties in South Afrca’s 2009 general elections reveals that the Democratic Alliance has a substantial lead in online performance over its rivals. The African National Congress comes in a distant second, narrowly ahead of the Congress of the People. The United Democratic Movement and Independent Democrats, in turn, are well behind COPE, while the Inkatha Freedom Party trails so far behind, its web presence is described as “damaging”.

The first formal web site benchmarking survey of South African political parties was released today by World Wide Worx, which uses its Webagility system to evaluate and benchmark web site usability and strategy of companies, organisations and institutions in South Africa and globally.

The Webagility system breaks the analysis down into several modules, including usability, social media, campaign effectiveness, and content strategy. Each module contains up to 30 micro-elements, which are each assigned a score, providing a detailed measure of overall effectiveness of online presence. Webagility has been used to analyse sites for clients as diverse as major retailers, banks, bookstores, the City of Jo’burg, SA Revenue Services, the SA Institute of Chartered Accountants and Wits University.

“The DA site achieves only an average score from a usability point of view, but their content strategy sets them apart,” says Steven Ambrose, manage director of WWW Strategy, which conducts the Webagility analyses on behalf of World Wide Worx. Ambrose heads up the Webagility team of analysts. “Benchmarked against global best practise, the DA scores 81% on content strategy, against 64% by the ANC and 60% by COPE.”

In usability, the DA score drops to 69%, while the ANC is consistent at 63% and COPE drops to 57%. Campaign effectiveness sees similar ratings for the DA, at 65%, while the ANC scores only 48%, COPE 45% and the UDM comparing well with these at 43%.

The much vaunted use of social media like blogging, Facebook and YouTube by the political parties is revealed by the analysis to lag behind global best practise. While the DA still leads substantially here, its benchmarked score drops to 69%. The ANC plummets to 47% and COPE 43%.

“The difference lies not so much in what they are doing, but in how they are doing it,” says Ambrose. “The ANC have clearly invested heavily in their online presence, and their YouTube site looks most impressive at first sight. But it is put to very poor use, with uninspiring content, and little opportunity for voter engagement. The DA, on the other hand, has spent less money on the Internet, but scores far higher due to the direct engagement of its own representatives. Their blogs are not only relevant, but interesting, so it comes across as real engagement rather than a public relations exercise.”

The overall Webagility scores of the major parties, benchmarked against global best practice, are:

  • DA: 76%
  • ANC: 61%
  • COPE: 56%
  • UDM: 43%
  • ID: 32%
  • IFP: 23%

“The poor performance of the IFP web site, which our system characterises as ‘potentially damaging’, is a reflection of the reality that the IFP does not expect its target voter audience to be found among Internet users,” says Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx. “It is probably not vote-effective for them to spend too much energy online. The ID’s performance is more a reflection of poor understanding of online strategy, with its leader famous for her attacks on blogs.”

Goldstuck adds that the DA has clearly done its homework on the Obama campaign in the USA, which set the standard globally for embracing the Internet in political campaigning.

Says Goldstuck, “We have nothing like that kind of sophistication in South Africa, but lessons are being learned fast.”

A PowerPoint presentation summarising the Webagility analysis can be downloaded at the World Wide Worx web site.

Media contacts

· * For comment on this press release, please contact Steven Ambrose, MD of WWW Strategy, on 011 782 0045 or 083 601 0333, or e-mail steven@wwwstrategy.co.za

· * For further information, please contact Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx, on 011 782 7003 or 083 326 4345, or e-mail arthur@worldwideworx.com

 

Internet access to double in next 5 years

Arthur Goldstuck, MD World Wide Worx, researcherJOHANNESBURG, 24 March 2009:- South Africa’s Internet population is expected to grow as much in the next five years as it has in the 15 years since the Internet became commercially available in South Africa.

This is among the startling conclusions contained in the Internet Access in South Africa 2008 report, released today by World Wide Worx. The report shows that the number of Internet users in South Africa grew by 12.5% to 4,6-million in 2008 – the first time since 2001 it has grown by more than 8%. The increased growth rate is expected to continue for the next five years, taking the Internet user population to the 9-million mark by 2014.

“Four major factors will drive this growth,” says Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx.

“The first and most obvious development is the arrival of a new undersea telecommunications cable at the end of June. It will increase South Africa’s maximum international bandwidth fivefold, and the actual capacity that was available until the end of last year will increase 30-fold. It will gradually bring down the cost and increase the capacity available to consumers and business – but not overnight.”

The second factor is the granting of telecommunications licences to all Internet service providers who wish to upgrade existing licences, allowing them to build their own networks.

“While we won’t see even a tenth of the 600 existing ISPs setting up networks, enough of them will emerge from under the radar to give consumers and business a new world of choice,” says Goldstuck.

These networks will be able to take advantage of the new undersea cable, which will allow service providers to buy bandwidth capacity at wholesale prices and repackage and resell it as they wish. This means that the new generation of service providers will be able to introduce business models that were never possible before.

The third factor is the rapid rate at which small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are migrating from slow dial-up connections to faster ADSL lines.

“The impact of these lines goes much further than merely the number of small businesses that connect,” says Goldstuck. “Our research shows that every SME using ADSL is connecting anywhere between one and 20 additional individuals to the Internet. This means that SMEs have taken over from large businesses as the biggest driver of Internet access in South Africa.”

The fourth factor is the growth of Internet access via cell phones. However, warns the report, this is not yet as big a factor as media hype suggests.

“The cell phone right now is a very crude device for accessing the Internet,” says Goldstuck. “We will need to see great improvements in both usability and people’s ability to use advanced features on their cell phones, and that will take another few years.”

The report also covers the prospects for as many as seven new undersea cables planned for the next three years, new trends in connecting schools and universities, the dramatic evolution of wireless broadband technology, and the extent to which other African countries have overtaken South Africa.

* For more information, email Arthur Goldstuck on Tel: +27 11 782 7003

 

Internet turnaround has begun in SA

In the past year, the Internet user base in South Africa has seen its highest rate of growth since 2001, increasing by 12.5% to 4,5-million.

This is the key finding of the Internet Access in South Africa 2008 study, released today by World Wide Worx. The study was backed by Cisco Systems, and the findings released during the Networkers at Cisco Live! conference in Johannesburg.

“The increase comes on the eve of the biggest shakeup in South African Internet access we’ve seen since the dawn of the commercial Internet in 1994,” says Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx. “It is only the beginning of a dramatic turnaround, and is occurring despite numerous obstacles in the way of growth.”

Among these obstacles has been a highly restrictive regulatory environment, with the Minister of Communications only deciding late in the year not to oppose a court ruling that would allow all network operators to supply their own infrastructure.

The evolution and changes in the telecommunications industry could not have come at a better time in South Africa. “We believe these changes will lead to sufficient levels of competition, increase access to Internet usage and in turn, increase global competitiveness and economic diversity,” says Reshaad Ahmed, Senior Manager of Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group.

“South Africa could, potentially, go from five major service providers to more than 300 overnight,” says Ahmed. “The combination of new licencees, policy directions, and municipality networks has set the stage for a highly competitive telecommunications marketplace, with consumers and businesses leading the charge toward choice, competition, and fair market value.”

Goldstuck describes the Minister’s decision as a pivotal moment, but one that should have occurred four years ago.

“In that time we saw growth slow to a near standstill, and the possibility of bringing access to underserviced area becoming ever more remote,” adds Goldstuck. “But the market has been anticipating this change, and numerous small, semi-legal networks have sprung up around the country in the past year. Many of these should emerge above the radar with their new licenses, along with new entrants into the market.”

The Internet Access in SA 2008 report shows that growth has come largely on the back of dramatic take-up of broadband offerings by small businesses, which alone accounted for half of the growth in the market, mainly through connecting office staff to their ADSL links. At the same time, the market as a whole has seen a continued dramatic shift from dial-up connections to broadband, with growth in both ADSL and 3G at more than 50%.

“We are seeing a broadband culture emerging in South Africa, held back only by the restrictions still placed on data capacity,” says Goldstuck. “These should start becoming a non-issue from the middle of 2009, as the first of the major new undersea cables enters operation. At that point, dial-up will effectively be dead as a connectivity option – it is more expensive, and utterly inappropriate to the changing nature of the Internet.

“Once everyone who is connected is on broadband or high-speed networks, the Internet will come into its own as an environment for business collaboration and personal interaction.”

The Seacom undersea cable, commissioned mainly by new market entrant Neotel, will increase South Africa’s international bandwidth 40-fold, and will mark the beginning of what World Wide Worx describes as a seismic shift in the Internet landscape in Africa. But it is only one of a series of new cables in the works, which will make the connectivity landscape completely unrecognisable for both South Africa and the rest of the continent by 2013.

“It spells the birth of an entirely new industry, and we are already seeing the market champing at the bit to become part of that industry,” says Goldstuck.

However, Cisco warns change won’t happen overnight.

“Only some of the 300-plus contenders will be in a position to manage their own net­works due to their ability to raise the necessary capital,” cautions Ahmed. “Those that do step up to the challenge must spend a significant amount of time building a business model that will be sustainable, innovative, and takes advantage of the strategic position with which a contender is faced, while employing the capabilities of existing service providers.

“We are therefore pleased with these findings as they indicate a positive trend for economic growth. We believe that pervasive broadband at the right price is a key enabler for economic prosperity.”

“It is imperative for all relevant stakeholders to drive broadband to encourage new services: skills, education, business interaction and lowering the cost of doing business,” Ahmed concludes.

 

How is online social networking websites impacting children's ability to communicate

This morning I was interviewed by Jeremy Maggs on the After 8 Debate (SAFM). The question on this debate is: are online social networking tools, such as Facebook, MXit & MySpace retarding our children’s ability to communicate? Lynne Cawood, director of Childline Gauteng and Steven Ambrose, director of World Wide Worx Strategy was also on the panel discussion via telephone. I was in studio. I never miss out on opportunities to meet the presenters/hosts in person.

Lynne Cawood stressed the proliferation of sexual images in the media and society in general. This has led to first sexual encounters occurring at younger and younger ages. Forced sexual contact has happened to about 40% of children by ages of 17 to 18 years. My own view is that cellphones/MXit is accelerating the development of relationships between teenagers in an unhealthy manner. They never learn through face to face feedback the lessons, which will become valuable later in life. And more specifically they could experience relationship burn-out as they just have nothing left to say/offer when they do get together face to face.

Steven Ambrose said that nothing in society has changes but the technology is allowing you to do same things in new ways. World Wide Worx research shows that teenagers do not even think of cellphones as technology because it’s seen as just being part of their daily lives and more of a fashion accessory for some

My talks to parents/teachers/children now include information on Facebook. In just 4 months it’s gone from 20,000 to over 250,000 users in South Africa. The number is likely much higher because not everyone is linked with the South Afican network on Facebook.

Something we didn’t address in the interview which I feel very strongly about is the growing productivity challenges for companies with soaring use of the Internet / cellphones in the workplace. This could cost the economy over a R1 billion over the next 12 month in lost hours from employees goofing off during work time.