The digital divide in South Africa is still prevalent even though we are living in a digital age. Many factors contribute to the digital divide in a third world country. Can business owners in South Africa decrease the effects of the digital divide?
With this blog, we aim to show how businesses can help or support in decreasing this great digital divide. Continue reading to find out how the lack of digital devices and connectivity can affect South Africa’s economy. Additionally, we’ll also discuss how you can minimize the digital divide, especially for SMEs.
What is a Digital Divide?
The digital divide is a term used to describe the gap between those who own technological devices and connectivity and those who don’t. These technologies include but are not limited to computers, laptops, tablets and internet access.
What is Affecting the Digital Divide in South Africa?
To solve the gap between those who have access to digital technology and those who don’t we must first try to understand what’s causing this major gap. Since South Africa is a diverse country many factors contribute to the digital divide. Take a look at them below.
Lack of Computer Skills
School students that come from high socio-economic parts of South Africa are more inclined to excel on ICT literacy exams compared to students from lower socio-economic classes. This is because the higher class students have more access to computers.
Furthermore, schools in higher socio-economic regions have the budget to provide computers to students. The students that don’t have access to computers will lack the skills to use them. As a result, it creates a digital divide especially when they leave school to join the corporate world.
No Internet Access
There are still many parts of South Africa that don’t have internet access. This is extremely detrimental to the growth of an economy because there’s a large number of people that can’t shop online or even access important information that could help them with certain tasks.
Most people use the internet to learn how to do tasks such as their taxes or how to book for a driver’s license. Not having this information freely online causes high traffic in government departments.
What’s more, some students can’t access information online needed to study for tests or to complete projects. Even if people don’t have computers or internet access at home, there should be facilities such as internet cafes where they can access the internet.
There are governmental websites that South Africans can access but how does one do this without a computer or the correct connectivity? It’s a challenge for South Africans and the government seems to be reluctant to change policies to benefit its citizens.
Since there are 11 official languages in South Africa, it can also be a challenge to provide digital technology to those who speak in different languages.
Lack of Telecommunications
South Africa started its telecommunication development in 1958 and for at least two decades the policies were successful. But the government is unable to keep up with new developments in technology and telecommunication devices.
However, the government and the telecommunication industry are trying to put proposals in place for the future growth of the sector.
Technology change is rapid and corporations are unable to integrate the newest devices into their businesses so quickly. This could be because manufacturers in South Africa are unable to build new devices. After all, they themselves have outdated equipment.
Furthermore, training staff to use new types of technology can take time and it can cost companies money. It’s difficult to integrate new technology especially because it changes so quickly.
South Africans that live in rural areas are the ones that suffer the most from the digital divide. Some people in rural areas don’t even have access to electricity because they can’t afford it. On the other hand, the number of internet users in South Africa has grown over the years.
According to Statista as of 2020, there are 56.3% of South Africans that have internet access and who use the internet. It’s said to grow by 2025. Could rural areas be part of this growth? There will need to be some form of development in these areas for there to be digital growth in rural South Africa.
How is the Digital Divide Detrimental to the Youth of South Africa?
The world is currently shifting into the fourth industrial revolution but there are still children in South Africa that don’t have access to digital devices such as cellphones, tablets, or computers. Since the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, many students who don’t have internet or digital devices had to put the brakes on learning.
Teachers can’t communicate with students remotely if they don’t have the devices or connectivity to do so. As a result, this slows down the growth of South African youth. Some university students rely on internet cafes to complete assignments but since Covid, it’s dramatically slowed down productivity because of social distancing.
There are also high costs on data in South Africa so some students and parents can’t afford to buy prepaid data bundles especially when it depletes so quickly. In 2019 the Competition Commission requested that networks lower their costs on data. There was also a request to provide zero-rating connectivity for educational facilities.
Without proper connectivity and digital devices, the youth of South Africa will lack the skills they need to work with computers. As a result, they may be at a disadvantage when they enter the corporate world without these necessary skills.
How Can South Africa Solve the Problem?
Even though the digital divide is a major concern in South Africa there are ways to solve the problem. How are you as a business owner decreasing the digital divide in your community? Take a look at the following solutions South Africans can implement to reduce the digital gap:
- Reduce costs: There is a large group in South Africa that can’t access the internet because of the high costs of internet access and how expensive the latest technology is. Electricity to run these devices is also expensive. Some companies could help by offering financial aid to low-income areas so they can afford the technology.
- Education: Some people have a limited understanding of how technology works. But some schools don’t have the technology to teach students how to use devices. Perhaps companies could donate computers to low-income schools. The government can implement training for educators so they can teach students how to work with digital devices.
- Improve online content: In a country with 11 languages, it’s difficult for people to find content in their own language. Content should be developed in these languages so that more people can understand the websites they’re accessing.
What other solutions do you think would help reduce the digital divide? Are there other ways that connectivity companies can assist? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
If you’re looking for affordable connectivity for your internet café or business Huge Connect can assist you. We provide fast and secure connections that will meet your budget.