Cellphones No Luxury, Says WASPA

Published on: 25th July 2016

South Africa’s stalling economy needs decisive action to develop the positive relationship between economic growth and cellular usage. The GSM Association found that every doubling of mobile data use adds a solid 0.5 percentage points to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and yet the SA Revenue Service (SARS) classifies cellphones as luxury items.

South Africa’s Wireless Application Service Providers’ Association (WASPA) believes that mobile use needs to be encouraged because there is a strong relationship between mobile data usage and economic growth. Unfortunately, while cellphone handsets enable this GDP-boosting data usage, smartphones attract ad valorem duty, plus 14% VAT, when imported into the country. WASPA represents the interests of some 300 providers of mobile content and applications that can be accessed on smartphones and feature phones.

WASPA believes that a luxury item is not something that has become the first permanent address for millions, enabling them to be included in the wider economy for the first time as job seekers, grant recipients and more. Recent news reports indicate the local economy is in for a sustained downward slide. One example of what’s holding South Africa back from being where it should be is the long defunct view that a mobile phone is a luxury.

On why mobile in general and mobile data usage in particular are good for country economies, WASPA believes there are three primary reasons for this. Mobile technology enables greater efficiencies. Essentially, more can be achieved using the same time and resources. Mobile also sparks layers of creativity that see greater human ingenuity with each successive technological advance. Finally, mobile encourages consumption which, in a retail-led economy such as ours, keeps cash registers full and employment positions filled.

Economics notwithstanding, the Bill of Rights as enshrined in Chapter Two of the South African Constitution states that everyone has the right to “security of the person”, “freedom of expression”, “freedom of association” and “access to information”, amongst other inalienable rights. WASPA’s view is that these basic rights are enhanced by ready access to the kind of mobile communications enabled by cellphones.

“A mobile handset is a tool which allows ordinary people to interact with prospective employers while searching for job opportunities in the most efficient way. A mobile handset, and a smartphone in particular, is more valuable to the one quarter of unemployed citizens than any employment agency. In addition, the security-enhancing features of smartphones cannot be denied,” WASPA concluded.

As an involved local mobile industry player, WASPA’s remit also includes a consumer protection element. Every one of the Association’s almost 300 members are expected to subscribe to, and uphold, the provisions of the WASPA Code of Conduct. Please visit www.waspa.org.za for further information.