Connected Worlds – can you share examples?

by Prof Barry Dwolatzky

Mrs Christina Marule at launch of CeBIT 2010 (photo: iWeek)

Mrs Christina Marule at launch of CeBIT 2010 (photo: iWeek)

The official opening of the 25th CeBIT Trade Show on 1st March 2010 in Hannover, Germany, had a strong South African flavour. Mrs Christina Marule, the owner of a tiny spaza shop in rural Limpopo, joined German Chancellor, Dr Angela Merkel, and Spanish President, José Luis Zapatero, on stage at the launch of one of the world’s biggest ICT trade fairs. (see full story in iWeek at: http://www.iweek.co.za/ViewStory.asp?StoryID=206496 )

 Mrs Marule has been part of a pilot programme being run in South Africa by the German-based IT giant, SAP. Using a mobile phone and specially developed software, Mrs Marule’s life as a small business owner has been transformed. No longer does she need to travel tens of kilometres every week in taxis to the nearest town to buy stock for her shop. She is now able to order stock directly from a supplier using a simple application on her cell phone. Standing on stage at the opening of CeBIT she described to an audience of hundreds of the world’s top ICT executives and practitioners how this simple application had completely transformed her business and her life. 

The theme of CeBIT 2010 was “Connected Worlds” – a concept perfectly demonstrated by the way Mrs Marule’s world is now connected via an application on her cell phone to the rest of the globally inter-connected world.

Sitting in the audience, I found myself wondering: What other examples are there in South Africa of “Connected Worlds”? We often hear about the “digital divide”, which seems to imply that the Information Age is leaving citizens of the third world far behind. We know, however, that there has been enormous growth of cell-phone adoption in many third world countries. Rather than a “digital divide”, are we not seeing a different road to digital inclusion? 

Do you have any examples of “Connected Worlds” that you can share?

3 thoughts on “Connected Worlds – can you share examples?

  1. What a fantastic idea! This is IT at it’s best. Making the life of a user better in such a tangible way. And everybody benefits, from coder to company to user. I love it! This is the kind of stuff I got into IT for: making a real difference in the lives of real people.

  2. One such good example is the PIT (Public Internet Terminal) developed by the Post Office and funded through the Department of Communication. This is a very good tool that enables youths and adults to have access to a computer and enjoy the powers of the Internet. It also allows users to access Government Information and forms, tenders and job opportunities. Best of all users can create CV’s using the built in wizard and store for later job applications. It is just a pity that we as professionals and researcher are not advantage of its presence in rural areas and extend its functions and abilities.

    I believe that our initiatives should start by enhancing what we already have and not coming up with new innovation. Only once those already designed reach a saturation point should we move forward which I believe happens naturally. This was we will be able to maximise the benefits from the investments already made.

  3. In my opinion, the “digital divide” is not only about who are the users and the non-users of digital devices, but also (and perhaps even more so) about who are the producers and the non-producers of such devices. Whilst it is true that more and more Africans are using (for example) mobile telephones in these days, hardly any African country (maybe with the RSA being 1 exception) has the knowledge and the facilities to produce these things; these things still come from the northern hemisphere, and the Africans can only /buy/ them at the prices dictated by the vendors.

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