Technology investment can be a socio-economic game changer for South Africa if government, business, educational institutions and civil society aggregate their contributions and efforts.
This is according to Mymoena Williams, executive director of the Cape Digital Foundation, speaking at a media roundtable in Cape Town jointly hosted by the Foundation and Neotel.
“Each year, government, business, educational institutions, and civil society invest much-needed millions in technology and ICT infrastructure in communities and schools. The challenge is that the socio-economic benefits remain slow to materialise.
“While the commitment from government, business and civil society is very real, the lack of cohesion among their investments sadly dilutes the impact. The establishment of the Cape Digital Foundation last year was aimed at addressing this challenge to help reap the digital dividend for the benefit of our country and her people.
“Education, like health, is one of the areas in which technology can play a transformational role. However, we have many examples where companies with the best intentions have donated computer labs or tablets, only to discover when we follow up months later that the lab or the tablets are lying unused.
“In these situations it’s usually because the teaching staff were not properly trained to use the equipment in the context of the curriculum. Sometimes, it’s because the technology has become redundant or out of date.
“These are not insurmountable problems, but they require a coordinated approach to ensure the hoped-for outcome.”
To help achieve this, the Cape Digital Foundation (CDF) is building an all-inclusive platform, aimed at improving access to technology as well as digital opportunities in the Western Cape, through multi-stakeholder collaboration. By providing an operational centre-point, the CDF aims to leverage widespread support and to harness the best available resources and skills.
The CDF is a not-for-profit and non-governmental agency formed with a view to alleviating the disparity in digital literacy, and as a knock-on effect, in the opportunities for growth, experienced between different segments of the Western Cape’s population. It has the support of the Western Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism, and is funded by Neotel.
Imran Abbas, chief networks and customer services officer at Neotel, says: “Technology and connectivity is one thing, but what shifts the goalposts is how we use it. We believe that an integrated and collaborative approach will ensure that investment in technology in regards to socio-economic development has a game changing impact and gains real traction. It is for this reason that Neotel is renewing its funding of the CDF for another year, to the amount of R1-million.”