Cape Town – The high cost, lack of access and slow internet connectivity in South Africa is unquestionably hampering economic growth and job creation, DA shadow minister of trade and industry Wilmot James said on Monday.

Responding to the recent release of the 2014 World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Information Technology (IT) report, he said it confirmed a devastating decline in South Africa’s IT infrastructure and the skyrocketing costs of internet connectivity.

“Although our overall ranking has stabilised – or rather, stagnated – at 70th out of 148 countries surveyed, there has been a drastic decline in speed (73/144, a 7 spot drop since 2013) and accessibility (87/144, a 2 spot drop since 2013).

“Our prepaid mobile cellular tariffs (128/144) and fixed broadband internet tariff (91/144) rankings have also plummeted compared to previous years,” he said.

James said the Global IT report is not the first to indict South Africa’s internet connectivity. Last year’s First Quarter 2013 Akamai State of the Internet report confirmed that South Africa has one of the lowest average internet connection speeds in the world.

At an average connection speed of 2.1 Mbps, South Africa is below the global average of 3.1 Mbps and far behind the top ten countries who all achieve average connectivity speeds between 8.2 and 14.2 Mbps.

“It is imperative that South Africa reach this standard in order to stimulate economic growth and job creation,” he said.

The World Bank has identified broadband connectivity as a key catalyst for economic growth with every 10% increase in connectivity enabling a 1.38% growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

James urged Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies and Siyabonga Cwele, Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, to prioritise “this crucial economic resource and work together to ensure its improvement and expansion”.