Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

The Role of ICT in the Economic Development of Africa: The Case of South Africa

Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

The Role of ICT in the Economic Development of Africa: The Case of South Africa

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Africa has been hard hit with poverty and disease and this has had an immense effect on the quality of social, cultural and political lives of the people. This has made development to move at a very slow pace in the last decades. But the presence of information and communication technologies (ICT) has somewhat carved out an alternative path to development. Not withstanding the urgency and enthusiasm with using this new medium for social and economic change, the Internet has brought about negative as well as positive contributions to development in Africa. The contributions of scholars in the field of technology in bringing about change in the lives of people in Africa in general and South Africa in particular will be discussed and analyzed. The reviews and analysis of the contributions of the scholars in the field of development will be critical in judging the overall significance of the role of the Internet in promoting social change.

INTRODUCTION

This article examines how information and communication technology (ICT) has contributed in promoting economic development initiatives in South Africa. This is an initial exploratory study that will be accomplished through a critical literature review.

In this day and age, the role of technology in improving the lives of the people cannot be underestimated. Most people, including minorities, more than ever before are now buying goods and services online, sending messages across the globe to loved ones, sending emails to donor agencies for support and receiving instant replies (Ebeling, 2003). The issue of network technology has been one of the fundamental problems affecting development in Africa since 1960. These issues of connectivity and networking are some of the fundamental setbacks that the grassroot developing companies in South Africa are facing since the Internet boom of the early 1990s (Moodley, 2002 & 2005).

With this boom, communication for developmental issues has been strengthened. However, there have been some setbacks in terms of Internet literacy and accessibility (Lister, 2002). Not everyone in the third world has the knowledge and ability to use the computer, let alone owning one. This entire notion of the digital divide has affected development adversely (Wilkins, 2000).

Brief history of the Internet

The Internet has become an invaluable bridge for Africans to regroup and discuss social, political, cultural, and economic issues facing them at home and abroad. The Internet started in America with an initiative from President Dwight D. Eisenhower who saw the need for an Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) that would cater for America's computer networking and communication in 1957 (Gromov, 1995; McCormick, 2002). This computer networking and communication was used mainly by giant organizations like the military and the government. It was not until the early 1990s that the Internet actually became commercialized. It then became a communication medium between persons. Computers all over the world could then be able to receive data and sounds from other computers stationed in other countries. Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) became very popular for interpersonal communication. It was now very possible for people to use the Internet to send and receive email messages. Thus, the Internet helped tremendously in reducing mobility and making the world a global village.

Africans, living at home and abroad found out that the Internet had greatly contributed in bringing them together as well as contributed in economic development of their countries. For instance, Ayisi Makatiani's Africa online1 (Economist, 2006) has helped tremendously to expand business initiatives in the continent. As a graduate from the Massachusetts's Institute of Technology, he used his acquired technological skills to help the African continent.

GETTING RID OF POVERTY

South Africa, like most other African countries has had her share of economic and political depression due mainly in part on the imposition of the foreign model (Rodney, 1981). …

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