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Abstract

South Africa has one of the most sophisticated information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructures in Africa, and was one of the early adopters of the Internet on the continent. This paper describes a longitudinal analysis of Internet diffusion in South Africa over the period 1994 to 2004 by making use of the Global Diffusion of the Internet (GDI) framework. It also analyses the determinants of further diffusion. The analysis shows that in 2004, at the end of its first decade of democracy, less than 10 percent of the population accessed the Internet despite its relatively wide geographic dispersion. Across the education, commercial, health, and public sectors the Internet had been largely embraced, with potential for further diffusion. The underlying national Internet connectivity infrastructure was well established. Strong competition existed between Internet service providers despite a monopoly on fixed-line telecommunications provision for much of the period. The Internet was being used for sophisticated applications in several sectors. The overall analysis reflected South Africa's reputation as having one of the most developed ICT sectors in Africa. The findings are perhaps also a reflection of its status as a middle-income developing country. After major growth in the 1990s, from 2000 to 2004 growth declined significantly. Reasons identified included the monopoly telecommunications environment over much of the period, restrictive regulation, delayed implementation of policies, and the socio-economic divide in the nation. Telecommunications policy directives announced at the end of 2004 helped in reversing the trend of stagnation that had set in.

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