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Census data reveals the fall of landlines, radios in SA

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 13 Oct 2023
Census 2022 shows 92% of South African households now have a cellphone, as landlines disappear.
Census 2022 shows 92% of South African households now have a cellphone, as landlines disappear.

The number of South African households that own landline telephones has continued to dwindle, amid accelerated cellphone access.

Households that own a landline telephone amounted to 5.8% in 2022, compared to 24.4% in 2001. Conversely, cellphone ownership jumped to more than 90% from 32.3%, over the 2001 to 2022 period.

This is based on the latest data from South Africa’s population count, Census 2022, published this week by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA).

The results show ownership of household goods/assets such as refrigerators, televisions and cellphones to be on an upward trend, while radios and landline phones decline.

“The overwhelming majority (92.1%) of households in the country owned a cellphone in working order, a notable increase from 32.3% in 2001. Just under four-fifths (79%) of households owned televisions, compared to 52.6% in 2001,” says statistician-general Risenga Maluleke.

“The ownership of a refrigerator/freezer increased from 53.8% in 2001 to 83.2% in 2022. In contrast, households owning a radio decreased significantly from 73% in 2001 to 50.3% in 2022. In addition, there is a downward trend in households that owned a landline telephone over the period 2001-2022.”

Census 2022 marked the first to introduce digital platforms in the country’s population count post-1994, indicating a departure from previous practice.

This census used three modes for data collection: computer-assisted personal interviews, computer-assisted telephonic interviews and self-enumeration through the internet (computer-assisted web interviews).

The percentage distribution of household goods between 2001 and 2022.
The percentage distribution of household goods between 2001 and 2022.

According to the population count’s latest data, ownership of cellphones at household level is universal. Meanwhile, a landline telephone has become the least-owned household good.

Further, the census stats show access to computers stood at 24.7%, for the period under review.

It is noted that households in the Western Cape (39.8%) are three times more likely to own a computer compared to households in the Eastern Cape (13.3%).

Similarly, over four-fifths of households in the Western Cape (83.8%), Gauteng (81.1%) and the Free State (81%) owned a television, compared to 30.2% in the Northern Cape.

The ownership of cellphones was universal in most provinces, with the exception of Eastern Cape (87.9%) and Northern Cape (85.4%).

Ownership of a computer, television and cellphone across provinces.
Ownership of a computer, television and cellphone across provinces.

Stats SA Census 2022 cellphone findings appear to support the data in the 2022 State of the ICT Sector Report, compiled by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA).

ICASA’s ICT sector status report showed mobile cellular subscriptions increased from 94 million in 2020, to 103 million in 2021. Smartphone subscriptions were 60 million in 2020 and 65 million in 2021, according to the report.

A further breakdown of subscriptions shows prepaid and postpaid mobile-cellular telephone subscriptions increased by 9.3% and 5.3%, respectively, in 2021. “For a period of seven years, total mobile cellular phone voice subscriptions increased by 2.9%.”

Internet access gains

In terms of households with access to internet services, the census indicates this increased to 79% in 2022 from 35% in 2011.

Internet access via cellphone was the most common source of internet access for most households, according toCensus 2022.

“Overall, households with no access to the internet decreased threefold (from 64.8% in 2011 to 21.1% in 2022). A substantial percentage of households reported accessing the internet mainly through a cellphone, or other mobile device (60.5%) compared to 16.3% recorded in 2011,” reveals Maluleke.

“There was an increase in the percentage of households accessing internet mainly at home, from 8.6% in 2011 to 13.3% in 2022. It is also noted that households accessing the internet mainly using other methods decreased significantly. Households accessing the internet mainly at work decreased by four percentage points from 4.7% in 2011 to 0.3% in 2022.”

In the case of provincial variations of households with no access to the internet, about one-third (34.3%) of households in the Eastern Cape and 31.9% in Limpopo reported to have no access to the internet in 2022 compared to Gauteng, where only 13.6% had no internet access.

The census report further indicates households that did not have access to the internet decreased significantly between 2011 and 2022 in all provinces, with only 21.1% of households reporting they had no access to the internet compared to 64.8% in 2011.

Percentage distribution of households with main access to the internet.
Percentage distribution of households with main access to the internet.

* All graphs sourced from the Census 2022 report, released by Statistics South Africa.

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