The 2015 Student Tech Survey, conducted across South African tertiary education institutions by World Wide Worx and Student Brands, with the support of Standard Bank, has released its key findings.
Students are becoming more tech-savvy, with Facebook the default social network among students, with no less than 97% of respondents saying they use the social network. Twitter came in second at 67%, followed in third place by YouTube, with 44%. The most recent entrant into the social arena, WeChat, has already reached 22% of the student market.
More than 2,300 students participated in the survey, conducted to establish trend lines for changes in the student technology landscape.
The survey also revealed the rise of the platform that is becoming most closely associated with selfies, showing 40% of respondents using Instagram. However, professional aspirations also came to the fore, revealing that 36% of the students interviewed use LinkedIn.
"The survey is a powerful indication that the student market - which comprises future working professionals - is embracing social networking," says Vuyo Mpako, Head of Innovation and Channel Design at Standard Bank. "It is therefore important to note that social networking will become a central component of any services provided to this market in the future."
Ninety-five percent of the students surveyed have bank accounts, with 92% stating they were satisfied that their banking needs are being met. More than 83% rated their banks as "Good" and "Excellent" in the use of technology.
Ironically, visiting a bank branch remained the most popular form of getting information from the banks at 58%, telephonic assistance second at 51% and the website third, with 42%. Social media was still far down the list, at only 9%. On the other hand, when it came to being contacted by their bank, a vast majority, 80%, expressed a preference for email, with the phone coming in second at 57% and 12% for social media.
Communication at the heart of services
It is also an increasingly connected market, with 92% using WhatsApp for instant messaging, followed by Facebook Messenger with 55% and BBM with 48%. The old favourite, Mxit, stands at only 17% - on par with pinboard-sharing network, Pinterest.
"Communication is at the heart of students' use of technology," says Daryl Bartkunsky, MD of the Student Brands youth portal. "They are also extremely budget-conscious, so anything that cuts the cost of making contact will appeal to them." He points out that according to the survey, Wi-Fi hotspots are students' most important form of connecting to the internet, while their campus is the most common location for connecting.
Further building on the picture of an increasingly tech-savvy audience, the findings reveal that 38% of respondents are using Android devices, overtaking the previous leading operating system, BlackBerry, which is still used by a high 32%. A little more than one in ten students - only 11% - still use feature phones, while the Windows Mobile operating system is used by 7% of the sample, marginally ahead of Apple's iOS.
Desire vs reality
BlackBerry's 32% keeps it in the number one spot in terms of brand of phone used by students, ahead of Samsung at 27% and Nokia at 21%. When asked for their brand preference regardless of affordability, one out of every two respondents chose the Apple iPhone. Samsung came in second at 29%, and Sony in third place at 9%.
"The reality will be a little different," said Arthur Goldstuck, MD of technology market research organisation World Wide Worx. "There is a vast affordability gap between what students wish they could get and what they intend to get."
According to student intentions, 43% will buy a Samsung phone next, with the iPhone coming in second at 17%, followed by Nokia at 11% and BlackBerry still making a showing at 10%.
Addiction less than imagined
A key question in the survey, namely whether students felt they were addicted to social networks, showed that it was an issue, but not an overriding one. Only 11% admitted to being "very addicted" to social networking, although a further 43% said they were "a little addicted". Instant messaging, on the other hand, saw double the proportion - 20% - admit to being very addicted. Just over a third, or 35%, said they were a little addicted.
Exactly a quarter of students acknowledged that they gave their smartphones and social networks priority over studying for tests and exams, and a similar proportion - 25% - admitted to using these during lectures instead of paying attention. One in five said they were emotionally affected by what they saw or shared on social media.
On the plus side, however, a huge majority - no less than 89% - said that technology like smartphones, the internet and social media helped them research better, while 67% said that it helped them increase their knowledge of the subject they were studying. Other strong benefits cited were that it helped sharing information (60%), learning studying techniques (42%), and having a channel for discussions with lecturers (38%).
"Technology delivers both the positive and negative for students," says Goldstuck. "The overwhelming finding of the survey, though, is that it enhances their academic and social lives and their lifestyles in general."
Mpako adds, "The advent of smart devices and apps has changed the way that consumers interact with and expect businesses to behave. A business has to respond to these significant changes through platforms that connect with their consumers."