Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Evaluating ICT Provision in Selected Communities in South Africa

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Evaluating ICT Provision in Selected Communities in South Africa

Article excerpt

Introduction

Currently the estimated population in South Africa is over 45 million people; of nine provinces of which KZN is regarded as one of the provinces estimated to having the highest percentage (8.8 million-21%) of people in the country (STATSAA, 2005). Among the eleven different official languages, Zulu is one of the languages been spoken in KZN. English is recognized as being the language of learning and business.

In 2005, the Central Statistical Service (STATSAA, 2005) conducted survey on ICT infrastructure on all the rural communities in KZN. The results of the survey indicated that most of the rural communities have little or no access to basic ICT infrastructure. The survey shows that only 12% of the households, compared with 13% nationally, have access to telephone facilities (STATSAA, 2005). The survey makes was supported by the World Bank (2005, p. 1). No mention of Internet access in these rural communities was made (Goldstuck, 2002; STATSAA, 2005). Thus from the statistical information from the survey, it is clearly evident that the majority of rural communities in KZN are still far away from having access to computers and Internet-related technologies.

According to the World Bank (2005) and supported by Conradie and Jacobs (2003) as well as Herselman and Jacobs (2005), developing countries like South Africa as well as rural areas have various social problems, which create barriers to people owning and using ICTs.

These problems, amongst others, include illiteracy, cultural barriers, lack of computer skills and technological know-how, lack of access to computers and computers networks as a result of the digital divide, no Internet access, lack of significant usage opportunities, background to increasing information equality and structural information equality. The critical issues or factors therefore which limit access to ICT in most developing countries and rural areas are:

* Illiteracy: In most developing countries there are still a high percentage of uneducated people. South Africa is no exception as illiteracy rates are very high and people, especially the young have to go to school and attend institutions of higher learning to get good education. Illiteracy will be drastically reduced if technical or computer skills are imparted to most members of society. People should not just gain access to computers, but should also learn various computer applications so that they can be employable which will reduce the high unemployment rate in South Africa.

* Cultural Barriers: In some developing countries, there are still some people who are barred from using telecommunications technology due to cultural beliefs. Some have "computer fear" and WSIS (2003, p. 148) states that those who fear computers shrink back because they think it is too difficult to use them or because their first experience with such devices have been too unpleasant. It is possible that some do not use computers because of ignorance or may not be aware of how computers can help them. With regard to the latter, these groups can then be given access to computers either by the public or private sector organisations and can be taught how to use computers and shown how computers can help them. Most literature suggests that young people tend to use computers more than old people, so age can also be a determining factor about who uses computers and who do not.

* Lack of computer skills and technological know-how: This is another problem in most developing areas, especially rural areas of Africa. Computer skills are lacking in some people and this problem can be remedied once telecommunication infrastructures have been established in their areas of residence and in addition to that they get access to computers and computer skills imparted to them by those who have this technical know-how.

* Lack of access to computers and computers networks as a result of the digital divide: The digital divide has created a bridge between rural and urban areas in most parts of the developing world. …

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