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SA’s global social mobility ranking takes a knock

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Bold leadership is required to build a new social mobility agenda, says WEF.
Bold leadership is required to build a new social mobility agenda, says WEF.

South Africa’s access to technology ranks 69th out of 82 countries, reveals the Global Social Mobility Index 2020, a report by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

This week, leaders from business, civil society and government, including a South African government delegation, will gather in Davos, Switzerland, for the annual WEF meeting. The report was released to coincide with the gathering.

WEF’s new index, which benchmarks 82 global economies, measures social mobility, to provide policy-makers a means to identify areas for improving social mobility and promoting equally shared opportunities in their economies, regardless of their development.

It uses key pillars of social mobility, such as health, education access, technology access, fair wages, work, and resilience and institutions, to determine its assessment of the 82 economies.

WEF believes the new index provides a much-needed assessment of the current state of the paths to social mobility around the world.

SA’s overall score and performance across the key pillars. (Source: WEF)
SA’s overall score and performance across the key pillars. (Source: WEF)

Under the technology access banner, the index assesses and ranks six areas: Internet users, fixed-broadband Internet subscriptions, mobile broadband subscriptions, population covered by at least a 3G network, rural population with electricity access and Internet access in schools.

In terms of Internet users, the index shows SA ranked 76 out of 82 countries surveyed.

In 2018, Statistics SA’s General Household Survey showed that overall Internet access in the country has increased over the years. However, only a small number of South Africans have access to the Internet at home.

At the time, the household survey revealed that around 61.8% of South African households had at least one person who used the Internet at home, their places of work or study, or at Internet cafés.

Access to the Internet was highest in Gauteng (74%), the Western Cape (70.8%) and Mpumalanga (63.3%); and lowest in Limpopo (43.6%) and the Eastern Cape (51.8%).

Broadband ambitions

In its analysis, the WEF index gives South Africa a ranking of 75 and 51, respectively, for fixed and mobile broadband subscriptions.

Last year’s State of ICT Sector in SA report shows the growth of mobile subscriptions in SA, which has ultimately spurred mobile broadband access.

Compiled by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA), the report shows mobile data subscriptions increased from 61.4 million in 2017 to 65.8 million in 2018. Over the four-year period from 2015 to 2018, mobile data subscriptions increased by 12.3%.

Although fixed-line usage has been on the decline for years, ICASA's report shows a 19.5% increase in the total number of fixed-line subscriptions in SA from 3.6 million in 2017 to 4.3 million in 2018.

Turning to 3G network coverage, SA is ranked 28th on the WEF index.

According to ICASA, SA's national population coverage for 3G stood at 99.5% in 2018. National population coverage for 4G/LTE increased from 76.7% in 2017 to 85.7% in 2018.

(Source: WEF)
(Source: WEF)

School Internet

While Singapore is ranked as the best performer among its peers for providing Internet access in schools, SA is placed 66 out of 82.

The South African government has a long history of technology projects aimed at providing connectivity in schools, which have stalled or fallen by the wayside.

For example, the Gauteng Online project, whose aim was to supply tablets and connectivity to over 2 000 public schools in the province, regularly came under fire for allegedly being ineffective.

There is also SA Connect, the ambitious government broadband project, which has continued to be plagued by delays years after it was first touted. SA Connect aims to connect all schools, health facilities, government offices, Thusong Centres and post offices, in eight rural district municipalities, to broadband services.

Glum outlook

Overall, SA has been given a glum ranking of 77thout of all the 82 nations assessed, with health, education and unemployment highlighted as the country’s major issues.

The index states: “South Africa suffers from the highest unemployment levels in the rankings, with a rate of 33.3% for citizens who have a basic education, and 28.5% for those with an intermediate education.

“The country also scores low on the fair wages pillar (26) and the incidence of low pay is also high, with 32.4% of workers being paid less than two-thirds of the country’s gross median earnings.”

In the report’s foreword, professor Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of WEF, says the results of the inaugural edition reveal that, on average, most economies are far from providing fair conditions to thrive to all their citizens.

“The Global Social Mobility Report 2020 is designed to help policy-makers, business leaders and other stakeholders shape their socio-economic strategies in the era of the fourth industrial revolution.

“We hope it will also serve as a call to action to engage in the visionary and bold leadership required to build a new social mobility agenda for growing, sustainable and inclusive economies that provide opportunity for all.”

(Source: WEF)
(Source: WEF)
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