Emma Kaye, Executive Director of Cape Digital Foundation says, “Yes we do have the will, and now CDF are in need of funding to pave the way. I invite you to consider joining the Foundation in co-creating Smart Townships in South Africa by becoming a CDF funding partner. I’d like to take you on a tour of our prototype Smart Township initiative in Imizamo Yethu to meet our team and partners on the ground. You can get in touch with me at emma.kaye@digitalfoundation.org.za.”

DIGITAL INEQUALITY IS GROWING IN SOUTH AFRICA

Dataportal research with regard to year-on-year change in digital indicators pegs the growth in number of Internet users in South Africa at 1,2 percent (or +364 thousand people) in the twelve months leading up to January 2019. Yet, despite this modest growth, as a developing country, evidence on the ground suggests that digital inequality is escalating in South Africa – particularly as the world moves from simple digital devices and voice services to more complex Internet-based services.

According to ITU Measuring the Information Society Report, Volume One (2018), global ICT data show that, as Internet activities get more complex, fewer people undertake these activities – from which we understand that as digital technology becomes more sophisticated, issues of digital inequality become a more complex situation than just addressing the problem of a lack of connectivity.

It is into the teeth of this complex reality that Cape Digital Foundation is implementing their Smart Township initiative – with a focus on children, unemployed youth and small business owners living in local townships and informal settlements who do not currently have easy access to reliable, affordable connectivity or the digital know-how to put it to good use – and through which daily use of the Internet is stimulated and supported by relevant, hyper-local content – created by the people for the people.

Read CDF’s article outlining how their Smart Township initiative is essential to South Africa keeping in step with the Fourth Industrial Revolution through stimulating the uptake and use of technology in South African’s daily lives, for the betterment of all our citizens.

In his interesting and hard-hitting article titled, Can digital technologies really be used to reduce inequalities? Tim Unwin – Chairholder, UNESCO Chair in ICT4D, Royal Holloway, University of London – speaks of three fundamental things that, in his opinion, must be done to reverse increasing digital inequality – we quote this article below. These three fundamental actions are in step with CDF’s practical mandate to build Smart Townships in South Africa – from the ground up.

A focus on the appropriate use of digital technology

“First and foremost, governments and international organisations, such as UN agencies and the OECD, need a fundamental change in approach away from encouraging the use of digital technologies and innovation in support of economic growth to one focusing on their appropriate use by the poorest and most marginalised. The private sector will deliver on growth in its own interest; governments should, at least theoretically, support all of their citizens.”

Digital technology created to serve real needs

“Second, we need to understand that digital technologies in themselves have no power to effect change. Such an instrumental view of technology has been hugely damaging because it hides the interests underlying their design and production. Unless new technologies are created with marginalised people to serve their specific interests and empowerment, then inequalities will continue to grow.”

A change in mindset to unlock the extra-ordinary potential of marginalised communities

“Finally, we all need to change our use of language to reflect such a radically different approach. Instead of calling the poorest and most marginalised the “last billion”, we should call them the “first billion” because they are the most important. We should stop propagating the myth of “bridging the digital divide” when that divide is becoming increasingly wide and impossible to “bridge”. We should focus instead on working with and in the interests of the poor.”

Tim Unwin concludes by saying (and we agree), “Yes, co-creating digital technologies with and for marginalised communities can indeed contribute to their empowerment and reduce inequalities, but only if we all really have the will to make that happen.”

DO WE HAVE THE WILL TO ACT TO REVERSE GROWING DIGITAL INEQUALITY IN SOUTH AFRICA?

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