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The 11th SITA GovTech (government technology) conference will take place at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Johannesburg from 31 October to 2 November 2016. The theme for this year's conference is 'How Technology Improves Service Delivery for Citizen Empowerment', with a view to progress government's Information and Communication Technology (ICT) agenda and increase collaboration between the public and private sector enterprises that can help drive technological innovation and growth.

One of the main focus points of GovTech 2016 is the impact that ICT can have on development, access and growth. In other words, the conference aims to explore the ways in which ICT can help ordinary citizens to lead a better life. 

On Day 1 of the conference, Chief Officer of Vodacom Business Vuyani Jarana will be speaking to this point in his highly anticipated address on the Digital Economy. Here is a brief explanation of what it is and why it's important.

What is the Digital Economy?

Africa has the youngest population in the world – about two-thirds of its total population is under 25 years of age. There are almost 200 million young people aged between 15 and 24 on the continent, and in South Africa, young people account for more than 60% of the population.

Education is the most powerful weapon for societal transformation. For Africa to realize the promise of its youthful population, its governments must disproportionately invest in quality education. It’s through such investment that African leaders can swing the pendulum of the potential the youthful population has from being a time bomb to being a true demographic dividend.

Africa’s education today faces a litany of challenges, ranging from lack of education infrastructure and facilities, lack of learner and teacher support material (LTSM), limited numbers of teachers and lack of contextually relevant teaching materials. The existing schools are distributed institutions spread across wide geographies with limited resources, most of these schools have limited and inconsistent contact with the centre of education administration. There’s limited connectivity into these schools, which means reporting is manual, paper-based and relies on people movements between centres of administration and the schools themselves.

Access to education is one of the key tenets of improving the education of any nation. Making the traditional education system more accessible often means increasing the cost of delivery. Africa needs to find methods that change the relationship between demand and supply of education, especially with regards to its delivery. Increased investments in mobile broadband networks, development of digital educational content, investment in content delivery platforms, decreasing mobile data costs together with lowering costs of entry level tablets and smart devices, is beginning to decouple delivering education at scale from the underlying costs of such delivery.

Using digital content delivery platforms makes it possible to aggregate content from different learning institution and make it available to a wider audience at a fraction of the costs a traditional brick and mortar delivery method would have attracted. Digital learning and teaching materials include innovations such as epubs, and interactive PDFs, as well as rich video content that helps bridge the gap of lack of science laboratory. “There’s an English idiom that says ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’,” says Tshepo Letsie, Managing Executive for Public Enterprises at Vodacom Business. “When children visualise education concepts through video and pictures, their level of comprehension and recall increases significantly. This is the difference that digital education brings to that table.”

Digital’s impact on education

Vodacom have long realised the centrality of technology especially mobile broadband in the transformation of education in Africa. Not only have they invested in content delivery platforms to deliver rich education content commercially, through the Vodacom Foundation they have invested in 160 teacher training centres to ensure that educators can be equipped with skills that help them to be able to use 21st-century digital education technology confidently.

 

Transformation does not have to be limited to primary and secondary education, digital presents opportunities to make higher education more accessible through digital online and Open University concepts. Letsie concludes, “Using technology to deliver education will help lower the cost of making education more accessible to the citizens.”

How can the Digital Economy improve quality of life?

 

  • Mobile health solutions are giving people in rural areas access to much better healthcare. Solutions in this area, such as Vodacom m-Health, are already mature and are likely to become increasingly critical as solutions are adopted more widely.
  • Another key area in which digital technologies are improving the lives of citizens is education. The Vodacom E-learning programme is a system used by the Department of Education to manage aspects from issue management to the use of tablets in each class. E-learning solutions can help poor and/or rural learners to overcome challenges such as access to qualified teachers and lack of infrastructure. 
  • Vodacom e-school is zero-rated, meaning that anyone with access to a mobile device can benefit from wide resources without paying for data.The e-school gives access to the curriculum and lessons to help students to understand their lessons so that all children have the potential to receive the same level of schooling, regardless of their location.

The bottom line is that businesses who want to succeed into the future can only benefit by embracing the possibilities that technology offers. 

About Vodacom Business  

Vodacom Business delivers total communication solutions to meet the needs of the public sector, large, medium and small enterprises. Vodacom Business offers solutions that extend from mobile to fixed line access, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), Voice over IP (VoIP), hosted facilities, cloud computing-based hosted services, storage, back up, security and application solutions.

For more information visit www.vodacombusiness.co.za »

And to find out more about the key drivers behind the Digital Economy and how it can improve the lives of ordinary people, be sure to catch Vuyani Jarana's address at GovTech 2016.

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