IRR: Instant messaging shows biggest growth among Net users

Downloading a podcast‚ dating and games have joined the popularity of instant messaging as massive growth areas in South African Internet activity.

The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) on Tuesday released a report on South Africans’ changing Internet use over seven years: from 2007-2014.

Forty percent of adults – defined as people over the age of 16 – used their cellphone connectivity last year were using instant messaging‚ making this the most popular use of the Net‚ followed by Facebook and searching (both at 27%).

Checking the weather and email are used by 13% of adults – less than the 15% of adults online who are now using the Internet for games.

Online banking only reaches 7% of adults despite showing growth of 179% in the seven-year period.

The biggest changes in Internet activities between 2007-2014 are:

• Instant messaging – up 2166% (40% as a proportion of all adults in 2014)

• Downloading a podcast – up 1596% (three percent of all adults)

• Dating – up 1351% (four percent of all adults)

• Games – up 1221% (15% of all adults)

Listening to the radio online (up 448%)‚ music downloads (up 451%)‚ accessing current news or articles online (up 357%) and reading a newpaper or magazine online (up 209%)‚ and share trading (up 199%) are also growing in popularity.

IRR said it based its data on cellphone connectivity to measure Internet use because this is how a majority of South African adults access the Net. For example‚ some 987228 adults used computers or tablets to bank via the Internet in 2014‚ while 2.7 million used cellphones to perform the same task.

This ties in with a huge increase in cellphone subscriptions and its obvious economic benefits: “cheaper and more effective access to goods and services”‚ and well as cementing SA’s “position as a leading tech industry in Africa”.

But more importantly‚ the IRR posited on Tuesday‚ “it’s the political benefits that are perhaps the most interesting”.

The IRR quoted a Fast Facts report released last week that showed 8.3 million subscriptions in 2000 had grown to 76.8 million in 2013 – 822% — while fixed-line telephone connections fell by 22%.

“Increasing cellphone access promises to be a very effective antidote to state efforts at restricting access to information‚” said IRR head of research Lerato Moloi.

“Social media accessed via cellphones would help to ensure that South Africans could freely access and circulate information and ideas despite the best efforts of the state to limit this.

“Attempts‚ for example‚ to introduce media tribunals or censor content on the public broadcaster would be less effective in the era of social media than would have been the case 20 or 30 years go. Cellular communications have therefore become an important asset in maintaining South Africa’s status as a free and open society.”

-RDM News Wire