By Bataung Qhotsokoane
"Data Must Fall" is the battle cry that has united many South Africans in their opposition to the struggle of excessive mobile data rates. The hashtag helped the campaign gain traction among the general public once it became viral on Twitter. This resulted in the launch of an inquiry into the Data Service Market in August 2017.
Spearheaded by South Africa's Competition Commission, its aim was to investigate market or value chain issues that contribute to high data service costs.
Following the end of the investigation conducted by the inquiry. The final analysis, which was released in December 2019, provided disturbing comparative insights into how pricey South African data services truly are.
Cheaper mobile inter in South Africa
In 2021, it will be two years after the investigation report discovered evidence of unreasonable data expenses. The report's recommendations ordered that mobile internet providers cut the price of sub-1GB packages to an acceptable, socially justifiable range. The committee also directed mobile carriers to take a pro-poor stance on out-of-bundle data prices (prepaid), as this is how the majority of low-income people use the internet.
Vodacom announced a 14 percent discount in their 1GB 30-day package offering, now priced at R80 from R99, effective April 1, 2021. MTN, coming last, dropped its 1GB 30-day package to R99 from R149.
As the market's two largest mobile providers, their lowering announcements established precedent. Regardless of how crucial these achievements are, the effort to accomplish #DataMustFall is still a long way from becoming a reality for the majority of South Africans.
Botswana, South Africa's SADC neighbor, has substantially lower data pricing. MASCOM, the mobile operator, costs R91 for a 2GB 30-day package. Another regional neighbor, MTN Zambia, costs R33 for a 1.5GB 30-day package.
Based on these findings, it is evident that data pricing in South Africa continues to be unreasonable. In fact, it's almost criminal how high data prices remain in light of the "concessions" operators made in response to the Competition Commission's recommendations. The internet is the lifeblood of every contemporary economy, and as it faces a third coronavirus pandemic, South Africa relies significantly on digital access. #DataMustFall is our generation's battle cry for universal internet access. It is critical to the reconstruction of South Africa following Covid-19.