Past 20 Years

In 2011, the Internet in South Africa turned 20! Two decades ago, the country, through some computer geeks, sent the first data packets over the Internet and got responses from beyond the borders and seas. The country code top level domain was awarded in 1990, and the first South African IP address was awarded in 1988 to Rhodes University. The data packets were actually received at this IP address and sent by a young man named Randy Bush from Oregon, US. His action earned him an honorary doctorate from Rhodes University in 2002.

Who is Randy Bush?

Randy Bush was a compiler writer for a company in Oregon, Oregon Software. He was recruited to help a group of young men in Rhodes University to receive the email link. These young men were Francois Jacot Guillarmot, Mike Lawrie, and Dave Wilson. They began production in 1989 before there was even dial-up. They used the Fidonet mailing system and it worked!

When the US lifted the sanctions against South Africa in 1992, Cisco routers were used and eventually replaced by PC routers. Aside from this group, there were others in South Africa who was on a similar mission. Rhodes University stood out because at that time the government saw it as a “too liberal school” and so they got most of the attention. When the sanctions were lifted, they got most of the credit.

Telkom was already operational at the time and they were asked to help by installing local leads into the home of Mike Lawrie. There was actually a copper wire that connected the university to the local Telkom office and then to Lawrie’s house.

Internet in South Africa Today

If, however, you’ve stayed in one of the hotels in Johannesburg, you’ll know that the Internet in South Africa has caught up with the rest of the developed world. Unfortunately, the net but continues to have problems such as penetration, poor infrastructure and high costs. South Africa is considered to be the most successful economy on the African continent, and has a population of 50 million. Yet only 8.5 million are active users as of 2011. The increase from 2010 to 2011 is not credited to Internet access through computers and laptops, but from the popular smartphones. It is one way for many South Africans to skirt the problem of high costs.

Nonetheless, being the most successful economy in Africa means that investing in South Africa is an option for those looking to build capital. Internet companies like Private Property offer a good user experience and sell all types of property, from repossessed property to prime real estate. The advantage of having property online is that a large clientèle has access to the company’s listings. In turn, the e-economy grows, too.

South Africa is often compared to other African countries, and there is a noted heated debate when it comes to comparing the progress of Nigeria with the progress of South Africa. Nigeria claims to have 29% Internet penetration but South Africa claims to have better Internet connection. They say that the Internet in Nigeria and Egypt may reach more people but the quality is choppy and unreliable.

In addition, there are more websites and business with online connectivity in South Africa than in any other African country. Over 400,000 small companies in South Africa are doing business online. Almost half of these businesses would not survive without their online revenues. The government just needs to lower costs and increase speed even more to really get the country to benefit from e-commerce and online business.