Demand for internet services before and during the Covid-19 pandemic: what lessons are we learning in South Africa?
Keywords:Internet usage, Covid-19 Pandemic, household determinants, Digital inclusion, South Africa
The primary aim of this study was to assess the demand for internet services before and during the Covid-19 pandemic, considering the challenges and opportunities brought about by the global health crisis. While the pandemic has had numerous negative impacts on people's lives, it has also facilitated advancements in technology, particularly the adoption of the 4th industrial revolution. To explore the positive impacts of these technological advancements, the study focused on analysing changes in household internet usage using the 2019 and 2021 General Household Survey data obtained from STATS SA. The study examined the shifts in internet usage between the two data sets and found a modest increase in internet usage over time. To further investigate the determinants of household internet usage, the study employed descriptive analysis, cross-tabulations, and a binary logistic regression model. Income, age, household size, and gender were used as independent variables, while internet usage served as the dependent variable. The results revealed that all the independent variables were statistically significant factors influencing the probability of internet usage. Income and household size demonstrated a positive relationship with internet usage, indicating that higher levels of income and larger household sizes were associated with increased demand for internet services. Conversely, the age of the household head showed a negative effect on internet usage, suggesting that as individuals grew older, their likelihood of using the internet decreased. Additionally, the study found that male-headed households exhibited higher levels of internet usage compared to their female counterparts. To ensure that digital inclusion is prioritized, it is crucial for authorities to ensure that internet access is accessible to low-income households. Addressing the disparity in internet usage between higher and lower-income households is essential. Government regulators can encourage broadband providers to expand affordable internet access, while reducing administrative burdens to facilitate network deployment, thereby supporting the current levels of internet usage, and promoting further growth. By considering these findings, policymakers and stakeholders can develop strategies to bridge the digital divide and ensure equal access to internet services for all segments of society. This will contribute to a more inclusive and equitable digital landscape, fostering social and economic development in the medium to long term.
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