What happens when a country reeling under its high mobile data cost, is struggling to find a solution in the foreseeable future? While telecoms companies and government regulatory authorities in South Africa are caught up in the policy flip-flops and ground realities of financial viability. One person had an ingenious take on this situation.
Marc Ferguson launched a website Dailydata.co.za to give away free data every day, by offering a daily draw to its users. Daily Data starts its operation from 1st July 2019, where you register once and stand a chance to win free data top-ups every day and multiple times.
Why Daily Data’s Free Data Holds Significance in South Africa
Free data holds much significance in a country that is ranked 35th out of 49 African countries, based on the price of 1GB of data. To give you a perspective, one of the leading telecoms companies Vodacom charged more than nine times the rate for 1GB and 2GB bundles in South Africa compared with its prices in Egypt. The lowest average price of 500MB of data in South Africa was “almost ten times” more expensive than in Morocco.
As Marc puts this with a concern, “ In a country with poor public wifi infrastructure, reducing the cost of internet access is essential for the goal of bringing the entire population online. For society to benefit from the digital economy, even drastic telecoms policy changes could be a welcome measure. Take the case of India. They enjoy the cheapest data rate in the world. This cheap data enabled a large population to go online, and helped the last mile delivery of government schemes, in a big way. Daily Data is a tiny step in that direction which is symbolic of certain urgent needs of this country, as well as being useful to a lot of people”.
Certain policy changes, like Marc mentioned, have happened, but without much impact on the data prices. Recent regulations have mandated network operators to allow the rollover of user’s unused data beyond the validity period. The networks also have to notify users of the depletion of their data bundles at 50%, 80%, 100% intervals. These are more of added benefits but are of no help in cutting down on costs.
Is there a Solution to South Africa’s Data Price Problems
There is a widespread perception that with upcoming auctions in 2020, the availability of spectrum’s may ease the prices. But many disagree that lack of spectrum is the primary obstacle. In fact, according to a recent GSM Association report, reserve prices for spectrum auction in developing countries were found to be more than five times those in developed countries. And this may translate into high mobile tariffs contrary to the popular perception.
There are several factors apart from spectrum licensing fees which determine the cost of data in a country. The government imposed taxes, undersea cable rentals, availability of broadband infrastructure, population size and density to leverage economies of scale, etc.
Another Telecom operator MTN’s chief legal services officer, Graham de Vries, agrees and says not to “pin your hopes” on availability of spectrum entirely.
So South Africa may not have an easy answer yet to its high data cost.
Daily Data’s Novel Step and a Pre- Launch Laptop Giveaway
In this scenario, Daily Data found a novel way to put the message across as well as help people with their data requirements. It follows the age-old marketing method of funding its giveaway through advertisement revenues. The founder Marc Ferguson says “ As we run with the principle of circulation based advertisement revenue, the more people participate, the more giveaways we would be able to offer to SA citizens. To spread the word, we are hosting a pre-launch competition to giveaway a Laptop and free airtime vouchers. As we grow we may venture into deals to buy airtime online, cheapest prepaid data bundles, data deals, etc for our valued users base.”
While the coming weeks will determine the success of this innovative idea, this is certainly a vision worth pursuing which will alleviate the burden of high data costs to some extent. Only a large scale collective participation can give life to this experiment and perhaps may open many more avenues.