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Covid-19 exposes South Africa’s digital literacy divide

When South Africa went into lockdown in March 2020, the Department of Basic Education was faced with the almost impossible task of try to continue the school year. In South Africa, only 37% of households have access to the internet via a mobile phone or computer, and these stats get even worse when broken down by province. However, even those learners who had access and were able to move to online learning admitted that they found it difficult to adapt, often due to a lack of digital literacy or experience online. This article investigates the various reasons for the lack of digital literacy and access amongst learners. 

Technology in the Classroom

It has been nearly twenty years since the Department of Basic Education’s 2003 White Paper on E-education was released. This Paper acknowledges the important role of technology in enabling learning at school level. However, years later, South Africa is still far from a situation in which all learners have internet connectivity that allows them to study remotely, or even have the use of technology to assist with their learning in the classroom. Telkom's partnership with edtech platform, Lightbulb Education, is working towards making accessible learning options widely available in order to assist in closing the digital divide.

South African Government fails to meet internet in schools targets

This article introduces a report, compiled by a number of organisations, which outlines the fact that the South African Government is not meeting its own target regarding the introduction of internet in schools. The findings indicate that this is severely impacting learners - even more so during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

How Covid-19 exposes the defects in South Africa’s digital economy

Shamira Ahmed says that the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted South Africa’s need to be better prepared digitally to make nationwide high-speed internet access a reality. Only contextually adequate ICT infrastructure roll-outs addressing the growing digital inequality, public policies catering to the complex South African socioeconomic landscape, and regulation that encourages an enabling competitive environment can make a difference, she asserts.

When communities are empowered through technology, the economy grows

The South African State is overburdened. It needs constructive private sector partnerships to cope. If not properly managed, the burden could impose a risk to democracy. Increase in unemployment, poverty, inequality and expanding demand for basic services are weighing heavily on the state.

What makes matters worse is that the resources available to the state to tackle these problems are dwindling in an economy that is registering low growth. Unfortunately, the little growth that is recorded is punctuated by a technical recession. The result is that the challenges have almost become a feature of the country’s unhealthy socio-economic fabric that needs to be broken.

Read more: When communities are empowered through technology, the economy grows

Strategies to bridge online gap in South Africa

Keith Michael, CEO of Lebone Litho Printers in Selby, says that three strategies will help to bridge the online gap in South Africa: creating policies that complement the existing education system, proactively raising funds for online learning access, and creating integrated public-private partnerships aided by the telecom sector.

Digital library for Maths and Science high-schoolers

Siyafunda digital library created by Zakheni Ngubo challenges three gaps that he has identified in the South African school system; language barriers‚ patchy academic support and teachers lacking in confidence.
The organisation is a learning and data management platform that provides access to local Maths, Science, Entrepreneurship, Financial literacy and digital skills through mobile technology. It integrates teaching through video, audio and e-books using a wireless digital library for high school students for a South African curriculum.