Smartphone penetration in 2018 was more than 80% in South Africa, according to ICASA’s “The state of the ICT sector report in South Africa 2019”. By comparison, in 2016 it was just over 40%. With more people rapidly gaining access to technology, the question that must be asked is: Can tech tackle societal needs, given that the country faces serious unemployment and large sectors of the community are impoverished? From the number of innovators who have jumped at the opportunity to leverage technology to address big societal problems, it would seem the answer is a resounding, “yes!”. From apps that link specialists to healthcare workers in rural areas to apps for domestic workers to find work in urban areas, digitalisation is beginning to transform people’s lives.In recognition of this, Naspers Foundry, a R1.4bn South African focused technology funding initiative, was established by global consumer internet group, Naspers. Its aim is to back and develop founders and entrepreneurs of early-stage businesses using technology to help improve people’s daily lives. Phuthi Mahanyele-Dabengwa, CEO SA of Naspers said, “We have identified attractive opportunities within the local tech start-up sector, this sector has a track record of punching well above its weight, driven by ambitious entrepreneurs developing innovative products and services that compete on a global scale. “ Foundry aims to attract successful early-stage tech businesses that have demonstrated the potential to scale to be the leading tech companies of tomorrow. We take a look at some of the leading tech advancements addressing societal needs on our continent. Zlto (Zlato): The rewards programme that's rewarding unemployed youth for volunteeringCape Town-based social start-up Zlto hopes to solve youth unemployment with an approach based on blockchain. The initiative, that launched in 2014 through local NGO Reconstructed Living Labs (RLabs), has a simple mission to get young people involved in their communities as a stepping stone towards employment. By logging volunteer work, you are rewarded in Zlto's digital currency which can be spent at either Mr Price on clothes, at over 1,000 Shoprite stores on groceries or even on airtime.On the 2??5?? Jan 2??0??2??0?? over R30 000 ?? worth of Zlto were spent during the RLabs Application Day. This enabled over 200 community members to who did not have means to pay for registration fee to enrol for courses ??? ?????????at @RLabs #EliminatingBoundries#YearOfRise pic.twitter.com/LOtZNCJ6Ly— Zlto Rewards (@ZltoRewards) January 30, 2020 Kathu Solar Park: Shining a light in the Northern CapeThe Northern Cape recently saw some new light in the form of a solar park in the town of Kathu. ENGIE’s 100 MW Kathu Solar Park, which has been operational since January 2019, provides clean and reliable energy to 179,000 homes in the community of the John Taolo Gaetsewe District Municipality. Kathu Solar Park will save approximately six million tonnes of CO2 over 20 years and aims to foster further local economic development in the Northern Cape.Kio Kit: Packing a digital classroom in a boxA Nairobi-based technology company, BRCK is making digital learning more accessible to Kenya's children through a rugged tablet called the Kio Kit. The tablets are water resistant, tough enough to withstand a 70 cm drop, and can store up to two terabytes of educational content. The Kio Kit is the first fully integrated education kit designed by African innovators with Africa-oriented solutions in mind.View this post on Instagram We partnered with BRCK to design #KioKit, the rugged connectivity device bringing internet, power and cloud access to even the most remote places in Africa. TEAGUE's Matt Schoenholz talks about the collaborative process and journey to create the final product on our website. Link in profile. #brck #productdesign #connectivity #makethings #socialinnovationA post shared by TEAGUE (@teague1926) on Oct 21, 2015 at 3:41pm PDTVula App: Lending a helping hand for healthcare workers in rural areasFirst launched in 2014, Vula is a healthcare app connecting primary healthcare workers directly with on-call specialists. The app is the brainchild of South African Dr William Mapham, who came up with the idea while working at the Vula Emehlo Eye Clinic in rural Swaziland, and experienced first-hand the difficulties faced by rural health workers when they needed real-time specialist advice.Wow. National Dept of Health talking about rolling out Vula across the country. Thanks to everyone for the support along the way @ Gauteng https://t.co/A6Kc0dLBBV— Vula Mobile (@vulamobile) July 17, 2019Communi Care: Digitalising sign language for the deafLimpopo-born entrepreneur Lucky Netshidzati is the brains behind the Communi Care smart glove sensor that turns South African sign language into voice and text. The 26-year-old told Cape Talk he was moved to create the invention to help his deaf parents and other deaf people across SA.While there may be similar inventions in other parts of the world, such as the Sign-IO glove in Kenya, Netshidzati says his model is more advanced and tailored specifically to South African sign language.Today on The morning Flava tech we have @RudzambiluH who will be talking about his app that translates South African sign languages to audio on #TheMorningFlava with @moflavadj @owenhannie @Pearl_Shongwe pic.twitter.com/efnxVTuwkj— METROFM SABC (@METROFMSA) November 12, 2019Ed-tech: Opening a world of learning to anyone anywhereSouth Africa is at the forefront of the African e-learning market, according to UNESCO. “Ed-tech companies such as Obami, Rethink Education, Rekindle Learning, and The Student Hub are attempting to redefine how education is provided and increase access to learning,” wrote Hertzy Kabeya, founder of The Student Hub. These e-learning companies are ensuring that no South African gets excluded from learning by transforming any space into a classroom. The practicality of ed-tech in rural areas is that children don’t need excessive resources. One phone, tablet or laptop can open a world of learning for students from different ages.View this post on Instagram No textbooks, no transport. Get qualified from your phone. Distance learning students get a feature phone AND 1,5GB data every month to study. Interested? Find out more>https://zurl.co/rO00 *Only available through distance learning.A post shared by The Student Hub (@thestudenthub) on Aug 27, 2018 at 1:00am PDTThis post is sponsored by Naspers produced by Brandstudio24 for News24.