Bridging the digital divide in South Africa and the possible role of municipalities

Andrews, Don
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The digital divide presents all under-developed communities with a challenge. Not to participate in the Internet revolution will leave whole communities behind. To be able to deal with this divide, it is necessary to understand it fully, and to understand the roles of the current players in the telecommunications market who are expected to deliver the tools to the whole population to enable them to keep pace with this new global revolution. This study examines a South African perspective of the problem, and particularly why incumbent operators do not successfully bridge the digital divide, and whether the municipalities which are entering the telecommunications arena might contribute positively to a solution. The study explores the connectivity, skills, confidence and beneficial usage aspects of the digital divide in depth, and then compares these parameters of the digital divide against the strategies and goals of the major telecommunications operators in South Africa for a match. It appears from such comparison, that the major operators are strongly focused on conventional business, and beyond the connectivity component, do not appear to address the digital divide in its totality. Many municipalities are investing in telecommunications networks, based on their existing electricity and water management backbones, and are entering the public telecommunications operator space. Municipalities have a mandate to deliver to provide services to residents and businesses, on perhaps different bases from conventional telecommunications operators. In this respect, their goals and strategies in this field appear to suggest that municipalities might go further in bridging the digital divide than the conventional operators.
M.B.A. - WBS
Digital divide , Information technology , Municipalities