Over recent years, expensive mobile data prices have led to the #DataMustFall movement that has been waiting for a substantial reduction in the cost of data. An announcement by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) that an extensive market review process led to the decision that data will soon no longer expire, seemingly left a lot of South Africans unsatisfied in terms of the high cost of data. Perdeby asked students to share their opinion about the ongoing data debate.
Sinethemba Zwane (BCom Financial Sciences)
I honestly just feel like data has become like water in how you drink it quite quickly to quench your thirst and then it’s over, but you can’t live without it either, so you constantly need to get more. The demand for data remains the same even though the prices are high so it’s really not fair for us students. It’s become like a burden because you don’t only stress about your fees, food or other expenses in your life, but you now stress about data on top of that.
Samkelo Samuels (BA Languages)
I think the data struggle has just become one of the many problems in the country honestly. Like you see them address it in parliament but it’s almost as if it just gets swept under the carpet and not prioritised. I mean, as a Tuks student, you have to make sure that ClickUp is your friend and it gets quite difficult when you go home, and you can’t access it because data is expensive, and you also cannot afford a Wi-Fi router you know. It’s so difficult because you recognise that data is expensive but also acknowledge that there is nothing you can do about it because at the end of the day you can’t live without it.
Carla Jacobs (BA International Realations)
I just think that Icasa is doing a poor job in terms of regulating the high prices of data that many of us are struggling with. For me it does not make sense that data prices are so high despite the public outcry against expensive data that began all the way in 2016 I think. Instead, data is increasingly becoming more expensive. I saw that customers will now be made aware that their data is about to expire when it reaches about 50% but I honestly don’t see how this will somehow make data more affordable really. And I also saw that they are working on data not expiring and I think that is the way forward but like what can we say has truly changed in the past two years? It’s almost like it’s all talk with no action and I just think Icasa needs to do a better job.
Stephanie HoTong (BCom Marketing)
I think that data is sometimes inaccessible because when it runs out you have to physically go out and get airtime to purchase more data bundles or you have to ask someone to send you some data. I know my friend always doesn’t have data because she doesn’t go to the shops frequently to buy more data and it’s also crazy how you can’t buy more data through online banking if you don’t have any airtime, so you always need to have airtime to get more data.
Boniswa Tele (Bachelor of Education)
I’m from the hood, I’m black. So obviously I don’t have a big budget. So being in a place like Pretoria, especially the university where there [are] a lot of Wi-Fi spots around, you know, that helps because airtime is expensive especially depending on how you use it. So if you are a social media person [and] you use WhatsApp [or] go on Instagram you need, I would say, on average R15 minimum for data[.] So it’s quite costly, but luckily for me I just buy WhatsApp data for R15 and that needs to push me for a while. I am not a very socially active person because I have taken a conscious decision because it costs a lot and because I have a part-time job, every now and then I will have a […] thirty bucks to get airtime should I need it but when I don’t have money, when I haven’t been working for a long time and I don’t have that extra support R15 is a lot of money when you need data so [the] data struggle is real.
Marko van der Merwe (BSc Computer Science)
I just hate that the high prices of data have become one of those things that we endlessly talk about but yet we see no change. I remember at some point there was even a social media shutdown but it seems like after that things went back to normal which is why like even if you wish that things could change, and data could become cheaper you also still need to keep moving forward especially as a student and familiarise yourself with the Wi-Fi spots on campus and at least try to buy one gig for when you go home for the weekend or the holidays to constantly be in touch.
Compiled by Mosa Mgabhi