Are we 'Bridging the Digital Gap'?- Lets recap

2012-06-15 10:04

After a good long week on the trot, up and down the shimmering hallways of the CTICC in the Cape Town last week, the grand entry into June was not at all bad. It was the long-awaited inaugural of the ICT Indaba, first of its kind to touch on South African soil, and that of the continent. Delegates swarmed the conference rooms, and it was all just a reserve of intellect, knowledge and innovative minds alike.

The theme was ‘Bridging the Digital Gap’. I know this has been at the top of the ‘bucket list’ for many developing countries, especially those in Africa. I should say we have been lagging behind in the drive to the so-called advanced world that has been fashioned by our ‘mentors’. It is surely high time we are at par with the requirements of this ‘industrialized era’ we are pushing for.

My question though, came about after listening to Professor A Bruck, from the World Summit Awards (WSA), who challenged the audience in a manner that a few people (even politicians) do. Are we ready for this era, he asked?

Professor Bruck argues that developing countries need not copy what has been set by countries at the echelons of universal industrialization. Their progress started many years ago, when Africa was still in a slumber (obviously one that was not intentional). Resources were available in abundance, in those days, and some had to wield force and exploitive habits so as to get them, I suppose.

As much as this drive into digital growth is excellent, it should not cut out a portion of those who did not even get the chance to embrace the ‘analogue world’ when it was initiated. Many people in a lot of towns and cities still do not have access to these facilities. ICTs are surely becoming part of everyday life for millions of people around the world, but what about those in the periphery, who are unconsciously being sidelined in this marathon to worldwide digital growth or globalization?

His argument based more on the fact that South Africa, and other growing economies in Africa, need to find their own path in this ‘short walk’ into ICT growth. “In a new territory, there is no map. You have to find your own way,” he said. In other words, in the move to bridge the digital gap, is there a guarantee that those who haven’t event grasped the intricacies of ICTs will be able to benefit from the 'digital world'? Shouldn’t there be ultimate focus on content, quality and awareness to what ICTs can do for the masses?

Believe me you; there is a person out there who has never had a chance to use a computer, let alone a cell phone. Even if they used a cell phone, what content or quality does it carry? A lot of youths in our societies have these gadgets, but to what extent do they benefit them. Do they bring positive results, or for some they are simply there to contact their ‘buddies’ via social networking sites, and download unlimited amounts of ‘western products’ (movies, music, series, and music videos).

Thus he notes the importance of focusing more on quality and content, rather than just a drive into the digital world.

If focus is more on ‘flooding the markets’ with ICTs, and not making sure everyone is ready for this move, the gap will not only widen, but it will create a generation that is different, and one that will not use these ICTs for development, but rather for social causes that will not only slump growth, but kill the future brains of the developing world.

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