By Phiwa Sikhondze
The ICT Access and Use Survey Report compiled by the Eswatini Communications Commission (ESCCOM) in collaboration with the Central Statistics Office (CSO) and the Ministry of ICT has revealed gaps in information communication and technology (ICT) access and use in the country.
The survey measured the progress and challenges of enhancing the uptake of various ICT products and services by households and individuals.
According to the survey report, 67% of all households have access to the internet. The main barriers to internet access include lack of service network, lack of electricity, lack of knowledge, lack of appropriate devices and lack of interest.
The survey also found that mobile phones were the most common way to access internet, with 94% of individuals using mobile data. However, only 34% of individuals were satisfied with mobile internet speed.
The survey also explored other aspects of ICT, such as e-commerce, postal services, broadcasting, cyber security and online child protection. The report revealed that only 5.2% of individuals accessed e-commerce services in the last three months, mainly buying clothing, footwear, sporting goods or accessories online.
The low uptake of e-commerce was attributed to lack of interest, preference to shop in person, lack of confidence, knowledge or skills, trust concerns, security concerns and privacy concerns.
It also revealed that only 19% of households reported to own a post office box, while 70 percent of individuals perceived that the post office is no longer relevant in the digital era.
The report also uncovered that 46.67% of all households own a radio, while 54.50% of all households reported to own a television set. The most popular television station was Eswatini TV, with a viewership of 28.24%. However, the quality of television reception and sound quality of radio stations were not the best for some households and individuals.
The survey also found that 1.3% of children reported to have suffered online incidents, such as cyber-bullying, child cyber solicitation or cyber grooming and scams. However, some households did not have the skills or the ability to restrict access to harmful contents online.
The report was officially launched by the Chief Executive of ESCCOM, Mvilawemphi Dlamini, who said that the figures in the report were long overdue and that they would help in the planning, monitoring and evaluating of the ICT products and services as a country. He added that the survey will go a long way into closing the data gaps that exist in the country and the region at large.
“The ICT Access and Use Survey report will assist in closing the process of solving data gaps that exist in the country. With the information in this report, we will see where our baseline is and which data gaps need to be addressed. And, this information will be used for decision-making for the country as a whole and also within the region. In the region, we have international organizations which will use our information, such as SADC and the ITU and other information ICT use organizations,” he said.
The Director of the CSO, Thembinkosi Shabalala thanked ESCCOM and partners for providing the necessary resources to conduct the first ICT Access and Use Survey in Eswatini. He also highlighted the barriers to Internet access for the rest of the population.
He noted that the survey will feed into the Digital Eswatini Strategy, which has a vision of Eswatini being a connected, participatory, innovative and inclusive digital economy.
Shabalala further observed that the survey will assist in closing the data gaps that exist in the country and that the information will be used for decision-making for the country as a whole and also within the region.
In line with the director’s sentiments, the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of ICT through his representative Mbuso Mndawe emphasized that such surveys are the way to go.
“These figures are baseline findings, hence there is a need for a regular survey, as the Director of CSO has alluded, definitely. This information will take us a long way,” he said.