South Africa - Afrique du sud (ZA)

[Need the name of the country in the 11 official languages...]

1.  Language information / Données sur les langues

1.1  Languages spoken / Langues parlées

a) Official / Officielle(s) :

Afrikaans, Southern Ndebele, Northern Sotho (Sepedi), Southern Sotho (Sesotho), Swati, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, Zulu, English

b) National, indigenous / Nationale(s), indigène(s) :

Ethnologue lists 32 living languages at

Information about South African languages is also presented at

The map to the right shows language dominance by municipality in South Africa from Wikipedia. Darker shades indicate majority, lighter shades, plurality (highest number of speakers but less than 50%). "Afrikaans in blue, Ndebele in brown, Northern Sotho in pink, Southern Sotho in grey, Swati in yellow, Tsonga in cyan, Tswana in red, Venda in olive, Xhosa in purple and Zulu in green. Borders are after the 2005 12th amendment of the constsitution. Data from the 2001 census rearranged to the new borders." (The file is licensed under a licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License.

c) Relevant pages in the Major Languages section of this report / Pages appropriées dans la section de ce rapport sur les Langues principales :

Xhosa, Zulu, Tsonga, Venda, Northern Sotho (Sesotho sa Leboa), Southern Sotho (Sesotho), Tswana, Southern Ndebele, Swazi (Swati), and Afrikaans

1.2  Language policy / Politique de langue

a) Laws/legislation / Lois/législation :

The site L'aménagement linguistique dans le monde has a page on South Africa at

b) Agencies / Agences :

Ministry of Communication (maintains a multilingual site on South African official languages, "Batho Portal," at )

PanSouth African Languages Board (PanSALB)

Ministry of Education (see below, 1.2.c.)

c) Languages in education/literacy / Langues dans l'éducation/l'alphabétisation :

The Ministry of Education is promoting teaching and learning of the official languages.

UNDP (2006) gives a literacy figure (without reference to which language[s]) of: 82.4%

1.3  Writing in national/indigenous languages / Ecriture en langues nationales/indigènes

a) Orthographies / Orthographes :

The Latin alphabet is used. For some languages, orthographies with diacritic characters were established and are still used.

b) Print publications / Editions imprimées :

1.4  Other comments / Autre commentaire

African Language Association of Southern Africa (ALASA) is an academic/research organization hosted by the Department of African Languages of the University of South Africa (UNISA)

2.  ICT situation / Situation des TIC

2.1  Infrastructure / Infrastructure

a) Telephones / Téléphones :

  • Fixed lines: Telephone mainlines: 112 per 1000 people (APC)
  • Mobile subscriptions: 16,860,000 (36.4 per 100 people) (ITU 2004 cited in Vodafone 2005)

"... with the exception of Mexico and Morocco, South Africa has significantly fewer total telephone subscribers per capita than the other middle-income comparison countries ..." (Towards an African e-Index)

"The emergent role of email as a medium of communication has been replaced by mobile phones. Because few people have access to the Internet or email, and because of the delay in accessing it (that is, most people have to be at work to get their email), mobile phones are preferred to communicate with people. An added factor is that SMS (and by extension, email) are perceived by the older generation as not heartfelt or genuine and that the only way to communicate (even to confirm something which would seem to lend itself towards SMS) is by voice." (Towards an African e-Index)

b) Radio stations / Stations de radio :

c) Connectivity / Connectivité :

South Africa is the most advanced country on the continent with regard to connectivity.

  • International internet bandwidth / Bande passante internationale d'internet :
  • ISPs / FSI : [need number]
  • Geographic coverage / Couverture géographique :

2.2  Computer & internet access / Accès aux ordinateurs et à l'internet

a) Computers & points of access / Ordinateurs et lieux d'accès :

  • Number of computers / Nombre d'ordinateurs: 68.5 per 1000 people (APC)
  • Cybercafés / Cybercafés:
    • "There are currently 981 collective access points such as cyber cafés, MPCCs, post offices, digital villages and telecentres now available with variable usage (Thomas 2004). With fixed line prices so high, cyber cafés have not penetrated throughout the country, with two of South Africa’s nine provinces without any commercial access points." (Towards an African e-Index)
    • "In terms of cyber café usage, the total number of respondents is so low (reflecting the absence of the cyber café culture found in other countries on the continent) that no significant conclusions can be drawn [from the survey used for the report]." (Towards an African e-Index)
  • Project telecentres / Télécentres de projets:

b) Internet / Internet :

  • Dial-up subscribers / Abonnés par ligne téléphonique :
  • Internet users / Utilisateurs de l'internet : 3,600,000 Internet users March/05, 7.4% of the population, per (Internet World Stats)

"Internet penetration in 2004 (compared to 2003) continues to plateau, with penetration only increasing by 6% to an estimated 1.1 million dial-up subscribers (Goldstuck 2004). While South Africa’s Internet penetration has followed the standard path of technological adoption – which is weak initially until a critical mass is achieved, followed by subsequent explosion in growth, which then reduces as the market gets saturated – the tapering off coincides precisely with the dramatic increase in tariffs in 2000." (Towards an African e-Index)

"Uptake of the Internet is much more limited than mobile and reflects the generally poor access that many South Africans have to ICTs other than basic voice telephony. Just 5.7% of all individuals have an email address. This email address is most likely to be a combination of a work and personal account (38.5%), with over one-quarter (26.6%) purely work-related." (Towards an African e-Index)

"While access is difficult even in urban areas, the digital divide is even greater between the metropolitan areas and the rest of the country. Of the respondents who have Internet connections at home, over 80% are in metropolitan areas, 20% in other urban areas and none in rural areas." (Towards an African e-Index)

c) Other / Autre :

  • Digital Opportunity Index (DOI): 0.38 (ITU 2006)

"South Africa's well-developed communication sector ... is often assumed to reflect positively on policy and regulatory reform over the last decade. It is far more likely, however, to reflect the country's considerably higher GDP per capita ... rather than the success of its communications policies. In fact, despite the progress evident in South Africa's ICT indicators between 1996 and 1998 ... the gap between South Africa and the global average on a range of ICT indicators has grown since then (Sciadas 2005)." (Towards an African e-Index)

2.3  ICT policy / Politique de TIC

"In the absence of a coherent national ICT policy framework, and given an ICT sector governed largely by fragmented legislation and with a multiplicity of sometimes overlapping institutions, it is not surprising then to find an NGO sector that is both vibrant and marginalised." (Lewis in GISW 2007)

According to Lewis (in GISW 2007), South Africa has several government institutions governing ICT policies:

  • Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), "created to unify the formerly separate regulation of broadcasting and telecommunications"
  • Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA) (formerly called Universal Service Agency) "is tasked with promoting 'universal access and universal service' (RSA, 2006), along with administering a Universal Service and Access Fund, through which a levy on the revenues of ICT sector licensees is aggregated and disbursed to support increased ICT access (including the under-serviced area licensees)."
  • .za Domain Name Authority, "established under the 2002 ECT Act to 'administer and manage the .za domain name space'"
  • Presidential National Commission on the Information Society and Development (PNC on ISAD), "was launched in 2002 as ... a high-profile body of international IT experts invited to advise the president on ICT policy and development matters."

The APC page, "ICT Policy in South Africa" has some information and links:

2.4  ICT4D/E & ICT training / TIC pour le développement/éducation, et formation en TIC

SANGONeT (Southern African Non-Governmental Organisation Network) supports the NGO sector and is involved in the field of ICTs

The Global Learning Portal (GLP) has apparently had a project for providing information online to teachers in South Africa.

2.5  Resources / Ressources

(see also 3.4 below for localisation projects)

3.  Localisation situation / Situation de localisation

3.1  Country web content / Contenu web du pays

There is a considerable amount of web content originating in South Africa. An English language site of interest (that often carries news relevant to localisation is:

3.2  Web content in indigenous languages / Contenu web en langues indigènes

The South African language site "Batho Portal" has a section on & in each of the country's 11 official languages

(See also specific language pages.)

3.3  Software localisation / Localisation de logiciel has localized open-source software in all eleven South African official languages. Their work has involved among other things an annual "Translate-a-thon" event:

Microsoft Corp. has indicated it will localize in South African languages.

A South African multilingual keyboard for different operating systems is available at

Corel? WordPerfect? apparently had a Xhosa spelling dictionary a few years ago. [verify - current status?]

(See also specific language pages.)

3.4  Projects & organisations / Projets et organisations

3.5  Localisation policy / Politique de localisation

According to Tectonic (22 Feb. 2007) "the Department of Communications, CSIR and have committed to updating and maintaining translations of, Mozilla Firefox and Mozilla Thunderbird for three years."

4.  References / Références

APC, "ICT Policy in South Africa," Africa ICT Policy Monitor, ("Politiques de TIC en/au Afrique du sud," Observatoire des politiques des TIC en Afrique,

Gillwald, Alison et al. 2005. "South Africa." In Gillwald, Alison (ed.), Towards an African e-Index: Household and individual ICT Access and Usage Across 10 African Countries. (Research ICT Africa!, )

International Telecommunications Union (ITU). 2006. World Information Society Report 2006. Geneva: ITU.

______. 2004. African Telecommunication Indicators 2004. Geneva: ITU.

Internet World Stats: Africa. 2006.

Leclerc, Jacques. L'aménagement linguistique dans le monde, "Afrique du Sud,"

Lewis, Charley. "South Africa." Global Information Society Watch (GISW) 2007 Report

SIL International, Ethnologue: Languages of the World, "South Africa,"

Tectonic, "OSS apps keep up to date in SA's 11 languages" (22 February 2007)

UNDP. 2006. ''Beyond scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis. Human Development Report 2006.'' New York: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). [Human development index Adult literacy rate (% ages 15 and older) (HDI) ]

Vodafone. 2005. "Africa: The Impact of Mobile Phones." The Vodafone Policy Paper Series, Number 3, March 2005.

Wikipedia, "Languages of South Africa,"

______, "South Africa,"

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