24 October 2012
The ability of mobile technology to solve major social problems in Africa is unprecedented, says Communications Minister Dina Pule.
“From health to education, mobile technology is changing the way all sectors of society do business,” Pule said at the Second e-Skills Summit 2012 and Global ICT Forum on Human Capital Development in Cape Town this week.
Pule said a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers survey indicated that South Africa and Kenya were leading in mobile health deployments on the continent.
While the applications in South Africa focused on improving the efficiency of healthcare workers, Kenya had witnessed a large number of awareness and prevention solutions, especially around HIV/Aids.
‘Supporting under-resourced teachers’
Locally, mobile technology was also changing the way learning took place. The M-Ubuntu project uses mobile devices to support under-resourced teachers and assist matriculants, Pule said.
The challenge facing South Africa and many parts of the developing world revolved around equity. This included equity in opportunity, capacity building, socio-economic equity, human equity and gender equity.
It was clear that success in addressing equity in the 21st century would involve the social appropriation of information and communication technologies (ICTs) for local benefit, she added.
The “absolute hunger” of people to socially appropriate ICTs for local benefit was evident in the adoption of cellphone technology in Africa.
Africa has over 695-million mobile subscriptions and a penetration rate of 65%. In many African countries, including South Africa, the mobile penetration rate is close to 100%.
Mobile as more than a communications tool
“We are indeed the mobile generation. Nowhere is change more evident than in the unprecedented escalation of the capacity, mobility, affordability and accessibility of new forms of ICT,” Pule said.
The biggest potential for useful impact of this technology was in dealing with inequity in developmental states which represent more than 50% of the global population, she added.
Africa’s young population helped to account for its willingness to embrace mobile technology.
“This mobile mania is also being spread because the cellphone is not just a tool for communication but also a vehicle to access information, education, entertainment, banking services and health information,” Pule said.
“Mobile technology is empowering our continent and people like never before.”
In the South African context, she said it was important to respond to the challenges and opportunities that arose with new technology, with new approaches that recognise the importance of social and cultural aspects in dealing with inequity and prosperity; new forms of developing a creative economy; and building a more self-reliant and resilient socio-economic base.