Six in ten South African information workers are running the shows from home, according to a new global survey.
The Cisco Broadband Survey, finds that evolving consumer expectations will reshape the needs and economics of the internet.
People are rethinking what they rely on the internet for, balancing classic demands for speed and reliability, with the intensifying needs of rising eco-consciousness, secure cloud infrastructure, and the consumerisation of technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) connecting our devices, from smart cars to home appliances.
This has led 78% of SA survey respondents, comprised of information workers, viewing broadband as critical national infrastructure. In addition, 85% of those working from home view broadband as critical national infrastructure.
Other key findings relating to connectivity include:
- 63% of respondents use some form of mobile technology to connect to the internet from home, including using their mobile phones or a 4G or 5G hub.
- 28% indicated they connect to the internet via fibre-optic broadband.
- 3% described the speed of their internet connection at home as very strong, while 24% described the speed of their connection as average.
According to the survey, 87% of SA respondents now rely on their home internet to work from home or run a business, with six out of ten of us now logging into work via a home connection. This represents a dramatic year-on-year increase of 20%, signalling the popularity of the trend in SA.
“Against the backdrop of digital transformation and remote and hybrid work trends, broadband plays a critical role globally, and impacts us both personally and professionally,” says Smangele Nkosi, general manager of Cisco South Africa. “Connectivity is related to factors such as reliability, security, and even sustainability. In other words, how broadband impacts us and the world we live in.”
Rising costs impact connectivity
While broadband connectivity plays an important role in everyday life, there are concerns surrounding affordability and accessibility, which continue to be top-of-mind in the face of national economic challenges.
According to the survey, 46% of respondents indicated that the increase in the cost of living had impacted broadband spending, with 26% switching to lower-cost broadband and 20% cancelling streaming service subscriptions. Furthermore, 26% said they could not afford to upgrade to more reliable, fast, and secure broadband, while 16% said they struggle to pay for it outright.
“Through the findings of the Cisco Broadband Survey, we can better understand the country’s digital journey and better inform our efforts to transform it into an interconnected, tech-enabled, and inclusive ecosystem,” says Nkosi.
The carbon-cost of broadband connectivity is a top priority for consumers. This supports a wider market trend, shown in a 2019 survey by Nielsen and a 2022 survey by Globescan, revealing widespread consumer awareness around the environmental impact of the products they use and a demand for companies to step up and mitigate negative impacts on the planet.
However, only a few are knowledgeable enough on the topic to explain it to others. This illustrates the need and potential for broadband to act as a force for sustainability, enabling best practices such as hybrid work and e-commerce, which in turn help reduce carbon emissions.
Key findings relating to sustainability include:
- When asked about the CO2 footprint of the internet, only 10% of respondents said they know a lot about it and could explain it to others, while 37% had never heard about it (for comparison, only 14% of UAE respondents said they had never heard about it).
- 25% of respondents who plan to upgrade their broadband service in the next 12 months cite sustainable or “green” broadband provision as a driving factor in their choice.
- 34% of respondents said they would be willing to pay a premium of up to 10% for the “greenest” broadband available in their country that has a lower carbon footprint. Assuming the quality of connectivity was the same, 23% said they would be willing to pay a premium of up to 20%.
“If broadband is the driving force behind a thriving digital ecosystem, we must consider how sustainable that broadband can be. Sustainability cannot be an afterthought. It can be a means to positive socioeconomic and environmental change, and it requires us to be proactive in everything we do and set out to achieve. Consumers are starting to realise this, and businesses should be paying attention,” explained Nkosi.
In parallel to growing environmental concerns, the emergence of hybrid work and the ever-increasing blur between the professional and personal lives of employees brings new risks into the home. South Africans seek home internet solutions and packages that are affordable, reliable, and secure. This is critical if we are to benefit from the opportunities provided by remote work and grow the economy through digital technology.
Key findings relating to internet reliability and security include:
- On average, SA workers would pay an extra R287 per month for more reliable, fast and secure broadband.
- 56% of respondents cited the promise of fast service as the most important factor when deciding on internet service upgrades during the next 12 months, followed by high security (48%) and promised reliable service (45%).
- 30% of respondents reported relying on a well-known brand to fulfil their broadband needs.
- 70% of respondents said they rely on a password to protect their broadband. At the same time, a quarter use more comprehensive measures such as turning on firewalls on their wireless routers (27%), using a VPN (20%), or network encryption (26%).
- Around three-quarters (76%) said they feel secure when using cloud-based services, with 33% saying they feel very secure.