South Africa Tech Divide South essay

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In 1990, Africa had 2% of the world's telephones, but in 2000 it had only 0.8%. (These data, taken from International Telecommunications Union tables, represent fixed lines, not wireless, and there are now more mobile telephone subscribers in Africa than fixed-line subscribers. 3 Nevertheless, with about 12% of the world's population, Africa is far behind in per capita telephone subscribers.) (Hundley, Anderson, Bikson & Neu, 2003, p. 126)

More specifically, even with personal computers and needed telephones there are still major lags in internet access.

Regarding Internet access, South Africa again dominates the continent's usage; it has approximately 750,000 dial-up Internet subscribers out of about 1.36 million for all of Africa, or about 55% of the total.... Overall, in 1998, Africa had just 4% of the world's Internet hosts 6 and 0.22% of World Wide Web sites. 7 One must also remember how poor Africa is in general. At an earlier conference in the RAND/NIC series on the global course of the information revolution, one speaker commented that the wealthiest 15 individuals in the world, taken together, have a greater net worth than all of sub-Saharan Africa. (Hundley, Anderson, Bikson & Neu, 2003, p. 126)

Though, the perceptual idea that South Africa is on the whole ahead o its African Neighbors in development of technology and access to it, there is a clear sense that without a massive influx of resources and change the nation will still continue to lag behind more developed nations in technology application and use.

Technology Barriers

In South Africa, there are many logical and some unexpected barriers to the development of a lesser technological divide and to the preparedness of a broader subset of the population for global technology advancement. Cultural factors associated with years of apartheid and corresponding economic and social disenfranchisement of the majority and indigenous populations of black people are only the beginning, though they are significant. Hundley, Anderson, Bikson & Neu point out that the list of cultural factors is long and includes; "language, nationalism, stratification, legal framework, vertical authority relationships, trust, meritocracy, and concept of information..." (Hundley, Anderson, Bikson & Neu, 2003, p. 127)

According to these experts on the global spread of technology, all the above issues, "complicate and impede the spread and use of information technology in Africa." (Hundley, Anderson, Bikson & Neu, 2003, p. 127) an example they give is language and the fact that the majority of world wide web sites are in dominant languages, though South Africa boasts high literacy in English it is not the first language for most blacks and websites are unlikely or slow to ever be translated into colloquial languages. "South Africa has 11 official languages, although English might be considered a unifying force in that country." (Hundley, Anderson, Bikson & Neu, 2003, p. 127)

Hundley, Anderson, Bikson & Neu, also point out that the AIDS epidemic in South Africa (and other African nations) is of high priority for resources and focus. This disease is a serious impediment to development in many African nations, and South Africa has one of the highest adult infection rates in the world.

In six sub-Saharan countries, more than 20% of all adults ages 15 to 49 have HIV or AIDS, 24 and these cases are affecting the most productive sector of society. These statistics will not improve soon: The vast majority of Africans living with HIV do not know they have acquired the virus. AIDS has become the biggest threat to the continent's development. (Hundley, Anderson, Bikson & Neu, 2003, p. 130)

Despite South Africa's relative progress as a developed nation, in comparison to some other African nations, it is among the six nations within this dire group, with an estimated 20.1% (2003 est.) of the adult population infected with the disease, many unaware of the fact. (Hundley, Anderson, Bikson & Neu, 2003, p. 132)

Another significant barrier to the development of technology in South Africa is the global threat of terrorism in the post 9/11 era. As a result of the fact that many nations, and especially western nations, the traditional investment nations in the world, are focused extensively on the prevention of terrorism nations who have a lower likely hood of destabilizing to the point where they become safe harbors for terrorist cells are likely to be ignored in many ways. For this reason, Hundley, Anderson, Bikson & Neu point out that support for it-related development is likely to continue to wane, or at the very least be directed at security and stability related it for some time. (2003, pp. 130-131) "For all the reasons stated above, it is likely that information technology improvements will continue in Africa, but the region will continue to fall further behind much of the rest of the world during the next several decades." (Hundley, Anderson, Bikson & Neu, 2003, p. 131) South Africa, along with many other developing nations is at a clear disadvantage with regard to the significant number of barriers, social, economic and infrastructural for the future advancement of it and therefore will likely continue to lage behind in foreign investment and technology development.

What is Being Done?

In South Africa there is a considerable level of corruption and lengthy debate that creates additional barriers to the leveling out of protections, rights and even services among the disadvantaged. It is for these reasons and many others that would constitute their own examination that legislation to improve it infrastructure is very limited, if it exists at all. To say the least, South Africa is in a period of social, political, economic and cultural transition that is sucking up all available legislative focus, for more pressing issues than it access and the technology divide. Additionally, South Africa is in a precarious position with regard to labor legislation, as foreign investment is scared away by intensive legislation, and such legislation is therefore shied away from. (Arnold, 2000, p. 64-65, 95, 107, 112-115, 144-145)

Awareness of the lack of technology access in the broader communities, but especially among the poor is an aspect of change that has taken many large steps in the past 15-20 years, but like so many other pressing issues it is likely that many individuals seeking change arte stymied by the enormity of the problem, as can be seen by the continued lack of electricity in schools and libraries in underprivileged areas. Librarians, educators and other who have had the experience of exposure to information technology and all its wonders are a significant voice in the community, but like legislation they are also stymied by other pressing and sever social and cultural issues, such as health, awareness and even simpler resources, like school books and pencils, though corporate investment is a growing trend in schools in South Africa. ("Mobile Science Center Brings High-Tech Experimentation to Remote Parts of South Africa," 2003, p. 41)

At its broadest, corporate social investment in education can be targeted to assist key governmental policies. Support for effective nongovernmental organizations working in schools to upgrade teaching skills, and pioneering new approaches to learning or helping school managers operate more efficiently, provide further avenues for business to expand education opportunity by judicious social investment and send a powerful message of the way communities, governments, and businesses can help change society for the better. (Boyd, Spicer & Keeton, 2001, p. 71)

Corporate investment in schools is growing, as is corporate investment in non- governmental organizations (NGOs) who have goals that seek improvement in education in South Africa, including but not limited to the development of broader access to information technology.

Tools for Success South Africa is currently grappling with these issues {technology and student success in the classroom] as its education system has been plagued by inequalities, as well as a deliberate and systematic separation of educational content and facilities. While many urban schools are adequately equipped, conditions in rural areas are often drastically different. Many schools don't have electricity, while most don't have computers. In addition, hundreds of classes are held in makeshift, prefabricated buildings with minimal water, insufficient textbooks, inadequate desks and chairs, and often more than 60 students per teacher. it's hard enough to simply focus in such an environment let alone give students the tools they need to succeed. Furthermore, many believe that the standard of living in South Africa depends largely on the well-being of the economy, which needs skilled and educated people to drive it. This can only be achieved through education. ("Mobile Science Center Brings High-Tech Experimentation to Remote Parts of South Africa," 2003, p. 41)

One of the very best examples, found by this researcher, with regards to the development of corporate investment in technology development in education is a South African company that has seen fit to establish a traveling technology classroom that spends a good deal of time taking the technology to the schools, rather than attempting to upgrade schools all at once, an undoubtedly…[continue]

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