Johannesburg - A planned protest against the high cost of data crashed spectacularly when it became a trending topic on Twitter. The protest asked South Africans to do away with social media today under the hashtag #SocialMediaBlackout, but contradicted its purpose by becoming a top trend on a day meant to encourage users to boycott social networks.
Yesterday morning poet Ntsiki Mazwai’s called on South Africans to not buy data and not to log in to their social profiles, in an attempt to put pressure on cellphone providers such as Vodacom, MTN and Cell C to lower their data costs.
Internet analyst and expert, Arthur Goldstuck told Fin24 the fact that #SocialMediaBlackout trended made it apparent that the campaign had fallen short. “But in one respect the trend has highlighted the consumers’ frustration in dealing with the high cost of data.”
He ran a poll from his Twitter account, on the day of the blackout, asking: “Are you joining the #SocialMediaBlackout today? Yes, no, or haven't heard of it? Please choose one option below.” In three hours 47% of respondents said “I am not joining in”, 45% answered “I haven't heard of it” and 8% indicated that “I am joining in”.
Goldstuck believed Another reason that led to the campaign's failure, is the lack of preparation time beforehand. “A campaign like this normally takes weeks to prepare for whereas this campaign was attempted the day after on very short notice.”
He added that the campaign was not geared correctly to have maximum impact.
“The real issue is that the heaviest data users tended to have a fixed ADSL or Fibre line. The most affected users use the least use of data because of its high cost. Many are prepaid users who use data off their airtime,” he said.
Goldstuck said that networks were punishing users who could not afford to buy bundles with out-of-bundle rates, which consumed more airtime from users.
“Data has fallen for the rich, but it is still punitive for the poor. There needs to be a more nuanced understanding. The issue that needs to be addressed is that data has to fall for the poor. Ad hoc data must come down dramatically, blunt uninformed campaigns need to stop. Instead campaigns with sharp edges has to be carefully crafted to address the real issue,” he said.