What is Digital divide?
Digital divide is a term that refers to the gap between demographics and regions that have access to modern information and communications technology, and those that do not have or have restricted access. This technology can include the telephone, television, personal computers and the internet.
Digital Divide in South-Africa.
As one of the most unequal societies in the world, many historically disadvantaged South-Africans still experience an overwhelming lack of access to basic services, skills training and employment opportunities. Moreover, digital divide exists not just between those people with and without internet access. A divide also exists between those with digital literacy skills, the ability to produce content online, and the financial resources for optimal internet usage, and those without these.
Access to digital skills as well as affordable and quality internet coverage remains unevenly distributed in South-Africa. Children that come from families with a higher income are able to get good education and increase their skills for digital future. However, each year thousands of lower income young South-Africans leave schools without basic digital literacy. If predictions of decreasing demand for low skilled labour are anything to go by, this is a valid cause for concern.
It is vital that South Africa takes measures to adapt to the fast pace of these developments and prepare ourselves for the implications they bring. Digital skills training are needed urgently in order to keep pace with changes.
How are we tackling the Digital Divide?
In 2014 MEC of Education, Panyaza Lesufi, in Gauteng launched an ICT project. Originally outlined in his five-year plan for the province in September 2014, the initiative aims to ensure that all schools have connectivity through the infrastructure at a classroom level, as well as e-learning solutions and information and communications technology (ICT).
Through the implementation of ICT solutions, Lesufi hopes that the project will bring about change and excitement in the classroom experience, as well as overall improvement for both teachers and learners. Building a “classroom of the future” is reliant on replacing 20th century curriculum delivery methods with modern and relevant teaching methods, ultimately aligning with National Development Plan objectives on ICTs in education.
Boitumelong, a non- fee paying school, was part of the first few schools that piloted the move to e-learning in early 2015. Since then the classes have gone almost fully digital. To date the project has been a huge success in the area of bridging the gap between learners from exposed background and learners from affluent background. It has given learners confidence in terms of technology hence preparing them for the outside world. Learner performance especially learners from township schools, in subjects like mathematics, science, technology, economics, and accounting, has improved overall.
Provinces like Limpopo, Northwest, Mpumalanga, and Western Cape are part of the e-learning project that assists learners to recap and solidify classroom lessons with extra CAPS aligned revision content. Extra content is interactive and engaging thereby promoting a culture of having fun while they become better in subjects like Maths and Maths literacy. Platform is free and incentivises users with earning of points which can be used to redeem against prizes and rewards like cars, device, airtime and clothing vouchers.
Free education for all, will end inequality and every learner will have equal access to resources.