Can #DataMustFall be a movement to force prices down?

First published on LiveMag

There was a time, about three years ago, when I used to be able to load 2GB on my phone, and it would last me nearly a month. Now I’m lucky if it lasts for over a week, and the situation seems to be getting worse. It’s almost as if the data disappears. And I’m not the only one. Take a quick scroll through the #DataMustFall hashtag on social media, and you will see similar complaints.

SA has the second highest data contract prices in BRICS

A recent study by a research company called Tariffic looked at the cost of data contract prices across the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). The study found that Brazil had the highest data prices, with South Africa a close second.

“Tariffic’s analysis shows that, once prices were converted to rands and re-based for the Cost of Living, South Africa was consistently the second most expensive for 1GB, 2GB, and 3GB data contracts, with Brazil being the most expensive in all three cases. Data prices for South Africa were on average 134% more expensive than the cheapest prices in the group,” Tarrific is quoted as saying in a Fin24 article.

So it’s clear that we’re not crazy, data in this country is too damn expensive. Another study done by think-tank Research ICT Africalooked at who, among a select 47 African countries, charged the cheapest prices for 1GB of data. South Africa came 16th on that list with countries like Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania offering cheaper rates than our service providers.

 What needs to be done?

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has already called for the price of data to be decreased further. MPs have also noted that we need effective regulations to address the high cost of data.

This is why I believe that, like the #FeesMustFall movement that inspired it, #DataMustFall is a force for social change. The country is making great strides in trying to give free wifi access to people in the cities and townships. But this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t apply pressure on cellphone providers.

We cannot move towards a knowledge-based economy when we cannot afford to get online.

If you believe that this is an issue worth taking forward and getting the telecommunications and postal services department to further regulate the industry, then share your support.

Photography by Thabiso Molatlhwa

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