The digital divide – a handbrake to the digital economy in South Africa

There is a digital divide in South Africa – a technology gap that exists between advantaged and disadvantaged people-groups. This is exacerbated by social factors such as age, gender and family structure – and where a person lives or if they are employed. In light of The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), access to a digital device and affordable Internet connectivity, as well as the ability to effectively use digital technology, are becoming ever more important tools to enable all South Africans to participate fully in growing the country’s economy – not to mention being active in society.

Smart Townships – a solution to the digital divide from the ground up

The importance of solving this critical problem led to establishment of Cape Digital Foundation, as an NPO that will initiate and drive solutions to bridge the digital divide in the Western Cape. Bearing in mind that the fastest growing metropolitan enclaves in South Africa are our townships, CDF believes that our townships should be classified as South Africa’s Megacities of the South.  Read CDF’s newsletter titled:  What is a megacity in the global south and should the definition be redefined?

What’s more CDF believes that to keep in step with 4IR our townships must become Smart Townships, and have identified that Smart Townships are successfully built around five core pillars:  reliable digital infrastructure, affordable connectivity, digital skills, local content and data collection. You can read more about Smart Townships’ role in building township economies in CDF’s newsletter titled: Smart Townships have the power to transform township economies.

Building Smart Townships – the benefit of putting a proof of concept through its paces on a shoestring budget

Unlike NPOs whose initiatives are well funded from the get go – and undaunted by an extremely limited budget – Cape Digital Foundation spent 2018 putting its Smart Township proof of concept through its paces, with great success. A lack of ample funding has meant that CDF has had to think on its feet while getting down to consistent, practical on-the-ground implementation. It’s been a case of “Do, test and perfect, then repeat”.

In hind sight, the success of our Smart Township proof of concept in Imizamo Yethu (IY) has hinged on the necessary agility in “doing and measuring” as we have put Smart Township building into action alongside consistently testing that our initiative works and yields positive results. As we scale our initiatives in IY and begin to replicate Smart Township building in other communities in the Western Cape, we are set to maintain a “do, test and measure approach” in our endeavours – upholding the need to ensure that our Smart Township initiatives work on the ground. We call it the “lean scaling approach” to growing a Smart Township movement.

Join us in building Smart Townships in the Western Cape

Read our January 2019 newsletter titled: 2019 – Scaling development initiatives that grow smart townships and learn more about how CDF put their proof of concept through its paces in 2018 – and get a sneak preview of our exciting plans for this year.

2019 is going to be a year of extra-ordinary progress in the building of Smart Townships. We invite you to consider becoming one of Cape Digital Foundation’s funding partners. In doing so you will be:

  • building Smart Townships that enable South Africans to participate in the South African digital economy
  • nurturing local small enterprise creation and the growth of township economies; and
  • skilling the next generation of leaders and innovators to keep South Africa in step with The Fourth Industrial Revolution.

To become a CDF funding partner get in touch with Executive Director, Emma Kaye at or call her on +27 (0)21 409 7000.


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