All the challenges we face as a nation today revolve around education. Obviously, mobile and digital technologies can accelerate the delivery of education. But the irony in South Africa is that digitisation is increasing the digital divide.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) will never happen in South Africa unless literally millions of the country’s people can cross the digital divide before it becomes impossibly wide. To promote an understanding of 4IR, mobilearn created in 2019 a show-and-tell 4IR video.
Access to connectivity is creating a very real divide between those that can use technology to improve their educational outcomes and those that can’t. Digital literacy is key to accessing educational opportunities.
On the one hand, there is much frustration and anger around high data prices that are seen to stifle access. Conversely, most consumers use their precious data for entertainment or social media. What we need to do is create an aspiration among consumers to become smarter in how they use their smartphones and their data, thus transforming their devices into mobile classrooms.
Digital literacy is the first step in bridging the digital divide and allowing more people access to the digital economy
Many South Africans conduct financial transactions that require in-person presence, yet they have a smartphone in their pockets. Yes, many banks have their own app, however, leveraging these for online transactional activity requires basic digital skills and a significant shift from data spend on entertainment to opportunities to learn online.
Much investment, by both the public and private sectors, has gone into education, but we still have a long way to go before we can claim that the nation is digitally literate. This means our economy is not ready for 4IR.
Digital literacy is the first step in bridging the digital divide and allowing more people access to the digital economy.
The digital revolution is held hostage by our past, but more so by our current reality. People who don’t have access to capital or digital skills aren’t able to participate in the digital economy. Our past continues to dictate who has an easier opportunity to exploit their entrepreneurial skills. The unexpected consequence is that our past dictates who makes money when entrepreneurship has become so dependent on digital tools.
Digital literacy and the productive use of a smartphone can itself deliver economic benefits to millions of our people. The time spent in lining up in front of ATM’s, or photocopying ID cards or ID books, laminating precious documents or other analogue activities means chunks of precious household incomes are spent on such activities. Understanding and learning how to migrate such analogue undertakings to a digital transaction on their mobile phones can become economically liberating.
All of us, private and business, must promote digital literacy across all so this mobile device that is eating the world does not simply eat into the pockets of most of our population. The mobile phone with digital literacy is key to participation on all that 4IR could deliver.
The author, Dr Hasmukh Gajjar, is CEO of mobilearn
This article was published in Techcentral on 14th July 2022.