Most South Africans believe that the increasing use of the internet has had a positive impact in their lives, but are divided on whether its influence on politics and morality has been positive.
This is according to a study conducted by the Pew Reseach Center that was released on Tuesday evening.
50% of South Africans who use the internet said that its increasing use has had a good influence on politics in South Africa. However, most people are still not convinced the internet’s role has had a positive impact on morality, with only 47% suggesting it has.
The survey, which was conducted between February and April 2017, looked at internet usage in six sub-Saharan countries – Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania and South Africa.
The findings were mostly positive in areas of education, the economy and personal relationships, but were less positive in areas of politics and morality.
Nigerians were very optimistic in all spheres, including morality, with many believing the internet was doing wonders for its society.
However, only 27% of people in Senegal thought that the internet was good for its society’s moral fibre.
For South Africans, education seemed to be the greatest boon of the internet with 81% of positive ratings.
Despite the many benefits the internet affords people, the study also highlighted the discreprency between smartphones and basic mobile phone users when related to income. 67% of higher-income people in South Africa own a smartphone, compared with just 37% of lower-income people. In terms of owning a basic mobile phone, 87% of people in the lower-income category reported that they own one, while 95% of higher-income people owned a basic phone. These numbers were significantly higher than the other six countries but the gap between lower and higher income groups in South Africa was the starkest of all.
What was also striking of the study was what type of activities those with a mobile phone – both basic and smartphone – engage in. Only about one-third of people in Sub-Saharan Africa use their phones to look up news and information, preferring social and entertainment activities. Only 35% of South Africans admitted to looking up news on politics or information about prices, while 51% said they accessed social media regularly.
The least reported online activities related to career and commerce, with just 15% saying they had taken an online class, while only 43% of South Africans said they had looked for or applied for a job online. Despite the relatively low number of people searching for jobs online, this figure was still the highest among the six nations surveyed.
Find out more about the study here: pewglobal.org