Public Access ICT in South Africa

Public Access ICT in South Africa

Tina James (Icteum Consulting, South Africa), Alan Finlay (Open Research, South Africa), Michael Jensen (Independent Consultant, South Africa), Mark Neville (Radian, South Africa) and Rasagee Pillay (Infowizz, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-771-5.ch030
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Executive Summary

Introduction

South Africa has long enjoyed a level of national wealth that evolved largely through the development of its enormous natural resources. That financial foundation has been well supported by an aggressive agricultural base and the ongoing emergence of South Africa as a prominent industrial nation in Africa. A valuable outgrowth of this combination has been South Africa’s particularly robust and well-developed media and information sector, which is protected by strong constitutional provisions. Although the overall national economic position is secure and growing steadily, striking contrasts linger within the social sector.

Eighty percent of the people are Black Africans, and the legacy of apartheid remains in evidence. Since the demise of apartheid and the installation of a democracy in 1994, the government has worked to address the inequities. This effort is apparent across a range of interest areas: from building an infrastructure for schools, clinics, roads, and electrification projects in rural and underserved areas, to the drive towards broad-based black economic empowerment initiatives designed to create wealth among the previously disadvantaged.

As a key response to the inequities, South Africa is working diligently to expand and improve access to information and ICTs. Despite significant successes in economic growth, inflation control, fiscal control, and revenue collection, other sectors have been slow to meet certain stated national objectives. This slowness is particularly evident in the national power crisis, the delays in improving the education system, and the approach to the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Methodology

Two international workshops were conducted under the leadership of the Technology & Social Change Group at the University of Washington, where the international research teams explored the approaches and findings from each of the 25 countries participating in the study. The research study was designed to provide an overview of public information and ICT access points.

This South African segment of the overall study was initiated in early 2008 and consisted of two phases. Phase I combined research into existing information, interviews with key decision makers and experts, and visits to readily accessible venues. Phase II was a field survey undertaken during June and July 2008, during which the research team examined ten public libraries, seven telecenters, and seven HIV/AIDS support centers. These particular venues were selected for their accessibility and to ensure that they reflected, as far as possible, variations in location (urban and non-urban), user types, and the services offered at each. In total, 799 user survey questionnaires were completed and analyzed with regard to information uses and needs.

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