Johannesburg - At present growth levels, South African internet users will number 10 million by 2015, according to technology research group World Wide Worx.
The company released its Internet Access in South Africa 2010 study on Thursday, indicating that more 5 five million South Africans are now connected.
World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck said the key issues that will drive internet usage include literacy and computer literacy levels, as well as the affordability of computers. The availability of broadband in rural areas will be secondary to these.
Goldstuck said growth in internet usage is also an indication of economic improvement in South Africa. "The divide between the 'haves' and the 'have nots' is widening, in the sense that the 'haves' are getting ever-better connectivity and technology, while the 'have nots' barely advance in their access to technology resources, aside from cellphones."
The growth in usage will also be a key growth factor for internet service providers like Telkom, MTN and Vodacom.
While telecommunications companies are struggling to maintain their revenues in South Africa, Goldstuck said there were significant opportunities to do business in this sector.
"The opportunity is for businesses that use the internet as a vehicle for facilitating business, rather than as the basis of their business," said Goldstuck.
"In other words, businesses that have a customer base that is highly connected can now more and more actively engage with clients via the internet, and use it as a channel through which to service their customers more efficiently, quickly and cost effectively."
Growth in the number of internet users in South Africa was relatively stagnant between 2002 and 2007, when it never rose above 7%. However, this rate almost doubled in 2008, and continued to accelerate in 2009.
"The good news is that we will continue to see strong growth in 2010, and we should reach the 6 million mark by the end of the year," said Goldstuck.