by Prof Barry Dwolatzky
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?