When Vinton Cerf and Bob Kahn first invented the internet communication protocols we use today (back in 1980), I doubt they realised the impact this technology would have on our lives.

By Ntai Khojane, regional sales executive for sub-Saharan Africa at Cisco

As we head into digital transformation’s teenage years, the ability to connect affects everything, from how and where we work to the way we bank, shop, and communicate. There’s no doubt that broadband capability plays an integral role in our lives, both personally and professionally.

This year, Cisco released the findings of its Global Broadband Survey, a comprehensive study that provides insight into the presence and impact of broadband in South Africa and around the world. With responses from over 2 000 South Africans, the survey details how consumers use broadband and what they expect from it in terms of connectivity, security, and sustainability.

Unsurprisingly, it also intimates the risks and opportunities local businesses should be aware of to foster a safe and productive digital economy.


The cost of a high-speed connection

We’re living in an era of instant gratification. Need a ride? Uber is three minutes away. Hungry? Mr Delivery has you covered. So, it makes sense that no one has time for buffering. Whether you’re sharing a presentation, downloading reports, or dialling into an international video conference, a quick connection is paramount.

However, even with the popularity of hybrid work, only 3% of Cisco survey respondents described the speed of their home internet connection as very strong. Couple this with high costs – 26% of respondents have switched to lower-cost broadband – and it’s clear there’s a critical need to improve the state of local broadband.

If businesses and service providers work together to solve for the availability and cost of high-speed internet, everyone can benefit from a fast, affordable connection whether they’re in the office or at home.

In fact, research shows that improved broadband from subsea cables resulted in a 6,1% increase in South Africa’s GDP per capita, and that people in fibre-connected areas are 2,2% more likely to be employed.


The importance of remote security

Hybrid work appears to be here to stay. And the numbers speak for themselves. According to the Cisco survey, 87% of South African respondents rely on their home internet to work from home or run a business.

However, little over a quarter use comprehensive security measures such as turning on the firewall on their wireless router (27%). Only 22% claimed to regularly check for hardware and software updates, while 20% use a VPN.

This presents a risk for any business that wants to reap the benefits of a hybrid work model. As cyberattacks continue to rise, not only must companies provide secure on-premise connectivity, but they must encourage employees to prioritise secure broadband at home, too.

One way to do this is through regular and extensive education and training. As cybercrime becomes more sophisticated, so too must our approach to preventing it.

Employees need to be aware of the significance of broadband security and make it a priority at home and in the office. Sub-par protection measures pose a threat to both personal and professional data.


A thriving digital ecosystem is a sustainable one

Ever heard of the “green” internet? Neither have most South Africans. When asked about the CO2 footprint of the internet, 37% of Cisco survey respondents had never heard of it. Just 10% claimed they knew a lot about it and could explain it to others.

However, sustainable internet could have a lasting and significant impact on business success.

The so-called “green” internet focuses on connectivity that has a reduced environmental impact. As South Africans continue to prioritise sustainability, there’s a national need for broadband to act as a force to promote this. Better connectivity also enables hybrid work and e-commerce, which will in turn help reduce carbon emissions.

The good news is, South Africans are willing to adapt their behaviour to address the impact of digital technology on the environment.

According to Cisco, 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. Additionally, 34% said they would be willing to pay a premium of up to 10% for the “greenest” broadband available. If local consumers are prepared to pay extra for more sustainable connectivity solutions, so too should local businesses.

It may be that, in the future, a company’s ability to provide “green” broadband could impact everything from investment opportunities to recruitment. The wave of environmental awareness has touched almost every sector, and broadband is no different.

Through the findings of the Cisco Broadband Survey, we can better understand our country’s digital journey and better inform our efforts to transform it into an interconnected, tech-enabled ecosystem. Businesses should be aware of consumer concerns to make informed decisions and foster a secure, sustainable digital landscape.