Is South Africa really bridging the digital divide?
“|South Africa is moving at a snail pace towards bridging the digital divide and the substantive interdependence between digital migration and broadband affects the speedy implementation of SA Connect.”
This is according to a PhD study conducted by Dr Boikaego Dolphus Seadirathesis entitled “Bridging the digital divide: Critical analysis of the South African Broadband Policy”.
In his thesis Dr Seadira examined how the South African broadband policy sought to address problems that prevent the implementation and adoption of broadband in rural South Africa.
“Infrastructural and internet access has become a continuous dilemma for communities in rural areas. Euphoria around the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) cannot be achieved in South Africa unless access challenges relating to broadband penetration and adoption in the communities of low economic strata are addressed,” says Dr Seadira.
“For that reason, there is a need to conceptualise policies that could accurately diagnose the rural and urban digital divide challenges in this country.”
Dr Seadira argues that digital inclusivity cannot be achieved by having a piecemeal approach. He also believes that policies that seek to bridge the digital divide should not be padlocked in the radar of the elites.
He feels that the views of the beneficiaries of such policies should be inculcated throughout the different policy stages.
“This study could contribute immensely to the body of knowledge in the field of telecommunication and broadband policy, particularly in South Africa. It opens up a new field of specialisation in communication and media by focussing research on broadband policy formulation, implementation and advancement in South Africa,” he adds.
Dr Seadira’s thesis further scrutinises the human right of access to internet or broadband services.
He maintains that denying the poor internet access is equivalent to infringing on their fundamental constitutional rights such as “the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the right to hold opinion without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers”.
If indeed the concept of equality before the law is genuinely espoused, Dr Seadira argues that all citizens should then have access to digital communication, including people in rural communities.
*A doctor of Philosophy in Communication was conferred on Boikaego Dolphus Seadira on 17 October 2019 at the NWU’s campus in Mahikeng.
Dr Seadira is currently a lecturer at the University of Witwatersrand in the Journalism and Media Studies Department.
Dr Boikaego Dolphus Seadira received his PhD in communication on 17 October 2019 at the NWU’s campus in Mahikeng.