Main trends

Limited Internet coverage has hampered technological innovation in South Sudan. Despite this, the use of smartphones is encouraged by their inexpensiveness, but only limited to the capital city, Juba. Elsewhere in the country, humanitarian organisations use Very Small Aperture Technology (VSAT) satellites which are costly and therefore only limited to specific users.

Even if the extensive government censorship has limited the ability to utilise various tools available to innovate and develop Internet enterprises, the use of social media is fast increasing in popularity, which somehow exacerbated the conflict. In 2007, the Southern Sudan Human Rights Commission (SSHRC) detailed hate speech cases that were encouraged by the use of social media. Facebook for instance has been used to send threats and abusive messages which only worked to encourage the escalation of the conflict, according to the 2016 Report on right to freedom of opinion and expression in South Sudan since 2016 by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Following the report, the government of South Sudan employed a heavy handed approach to curtail such communications. The lack of digital capabilities among many South Sudanese has further reduced the ability for the innovation of digital services in the country, where there are no recorded visible technology advancements.

Smartphone technology has helped to foster the popularity of social media, with groups sharing videos and photos in Facebook and YouTube, further opening up space for expression. This new trend has been encouraged by access to more inexpensive smartphones which have saturated the market, especially amongst the middle class and youthful South Sudanese. As a result, social media continue to rise in popularity. Open source data indicate that the growth rate tops 21 percent, however still barely 2 percent of the population access social media, limited by infrastructures and illiteracy.

Mobile banking services are also available, but mainly in the capital, Juba. This innovative service is not used by many South Sudanese in areas outside Juba, as they still prefer sending money via relatives and friends. Other available money services such as Dahabshiil continue to grow in popularity. These services involve physical collection of money from bureaus available in Juba. In 2018, the communication authority announced it will register the first money transfer and delivery service which is set to change how South Sudanese send and receive money. Other popular services included Kenya’s Mpesa services which is used by South Sudanese travelling between Kenya and South Sudan.