It is with deep regret that we have to bid you farewell, but before we do we would like to take a retrospective look, with great appreciation for our supporters and our extraordinary partners who have helped us achieve the successes of the past 2 years.
The Cape Digital Foundation was established by the Department of Economic Development and Tourism (DEDAT) and Neotel (now Liquid Telecom) to stimulate the uptake of technology among citizens in the Western Cape. And, looking back over the last 24 months it has been really great to take stock of the extraordinary headway that CDF has made in its on-the-ground campaign to facilitate and enable citizens, particularly within underserviced townships of the Western Cape, to become connected and digitally savvy Smart Citizens.
In July 2017, CDF’s newly-appointed Executive Director, Emma Kaye, attended a digital disruption workshop facilitated by Ian Merrington of Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi), with Department of Economic Development and Tourism (DEDAT). At the time Emma had this to say, “It was an honour to be invited to attend the workshop on digital disruption and consider how it will affect businesses and citizens of the Western Cape.Technology can no longer be seen as a vertical business sector but as a horizontal necessity across all areas of business and society in order to have an accelerated economic, social and cultural impact on the Western Cape.”
Cape Digital Foundation sets about building Smart Townships in the Western Cape
This marked the beginning of the development and implementation of CDF’s Smart Township initiative; and the point at which the Foundation set about building a digital ecosystem at a ‘whole community’ level as proof of the Smart Township concept.
In development it had become clear; with more and more migration into our townships from rural areas and neighbouring countries, it is our townships that are South Africa’s fastest growing urban areas. South Africa’s burgeoning townships are set to be among Africa’s ‘Megacities of the South’. CDF believes that valuable innovation will be born of the Internet-enabled informal sector within our townships; and that connectivity and digital skills have the power to give Smart South Africans’ agency and purpose in building a Smart South Africa.
However, without digital skills, it is not possible for citizens to participate in the digital economy or digital society. Thus, Cape Digital Foundation believes it is essential to inspire digital infrastructure investing – and to facilitate initiatives that will stimulate the uptake and use of technology leading to a wholesale growth in digital skills. This is of particular importance if South Africans living in our ‘Megacities of the South’ are to keep pace with rapid digital advancements brought by the Fourth Industrial Revolution – to become Smart Citizens living in Smart Townships.
Over the time spent in resurrecting CDF, building partnerships and concretising CDF’s thinking – alongside facilitating numerous small projects and advocating for the building of Smart Townships in the greater Cape Town area – it had also became clear that there are five pillars essential to building Smart Townships. These are: digital infrastructure, affordable connectivity, digital skills, local content and data collection.
Imizamo Yethu – Smart Township in the making
Early in 2018 CDF chose Imizamo Yethu (IY) in Hout Bay to be its Smart Township proof of concept, particularly because its well-delineated boundaries make accurate data collection and analysis possible. The Foundation chose connectivity partners, TooMuchWifi to ensure that reliable digital infrastructure and affordable connectivity is available to IY residents.
CDF facilitated the first round of digital skills training in IY – partnering with University of the Western Cape’s WesternCapeCoLab for eInclusion and Social Innovation to bring digital skills training to 25 micro and small business owners. CDF has since facilitated ongoing digital skills training within Imizamo Yethu. In October 2018, CDF launched hyper-local news portal, IYtv – zero rated for residents of IY who purchase reasonably priced data from TooMuchWifi. By February 2019, IYtv sported a crew of five people, all of them from IY, along with IYtv’s own studio where citizen journalists began to experiment with creating formatted shows once a week as well as providing daily news from around IY. The IYtv portal also features a local business directory where local business owners can list their businesses, for free, along with a learner section hosting a growing number of educational workbooks for learners from grade 4 through to 9 – particularly in the areas of maths, and science and technology.
By the end of 2018 CDF’s Smart Township proof of concept was a proven success. Intel provided by TooMuchWifi, revealed that the equivalent of R17.8 million in data-spend had been saved over the previous year through access to affordable, reliable Wifi within this township. This represents actual household income that had been freed up to be spent on other necessities. By the end of April 2019 IYtv’s business directory had 78 local IY businesses registered on the site – with a growing news and Whatsapp following.
And so, we find ourselves poised to take Smart Township building to the next level, to scale and replicate this initiative across the Western Cape, but without the funding to do so.
Goodbye for now
We are very grateful for the support we have been given – thank you for reading our newsletters in which we’ve shared our news and passion for Smart Townships with you. We remain convinced that Smart Townships are foundational building blocks in creating an all-inclusive digital society in South Africa. We wish that we were able to continue to facilitate the provision of digital infrastructure and affordable Internet connectivity and stimulate demand and use of the Internet through the supply of relevant local content.