An analysis of Social Media use in the SADC region 2014 – 2020

This paper from MISA examines the different ways in which Social Media has been used in the region for a variety of relational, professional, academic and business needs, and to access information from the news and organize to demand political change.

It also considers the changing nature of social media use and critically examines issues around digital rights within this ever-changing context. Digital rights encompass, among others, the right to access information, freedom of expression, and the right to privacy.

The paper is structured in five interconnected parts: Firstly, it introduces key concepts, principles and literature within the regional context; secondly, it looks at key social media statistics and data from the region; thirdly, it focuses on specific country case studies. It then addresses issues of access, affordability and availability of social media and lastly, proffers recommendations and gives a conclusion.

Key highlights

  • Regional countries spend about 1.1 percent of GDP on digital investment, while advanced economies spend an average of 3.2 percent.
  • 37% of social media users in the region have contributed to the creation of news, commented on it or shared it with others.
  • There is an upward trend in arrests and detentions after politically-related publications on social media.
  • There is a notable regional trend in political parties and governments gagging members on social media.
  • Social media interruptions through internet disruption are now common in the region.
  • Citizen journalism through social media is on the rise in the region.
  • There is significant growing employment of social media surveillance which threatens to squeeze the space for freedom of expression and access to information, including civic activism on social media.
  • There is an increasing presence of social media within political campaigns and electoral processes across the region.
  • There is a significant rise in organized social media manipulation through cyber troops within the region.
  • There is substantial use of social media to ‘break’ news by traditional media houses.
  • There is an increase in social media surveillance in the region.
  • Internet penetration in 2019 averaged 39.6 percent in the region compared to 62.7 percent in the rest of the world, affecting social media usage.
  • The region has some of the highest total cost of mobile ownership in the world ranging from 10% to 68% of average income and also has the highest cost of internet, limiting social media usage.
  • Africa remains the only continent whose digital gender gap has widened since 2013.

Read the full report here (1MB PDF)

Source: Media Institute for Southern Africa Zimbabwe

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