South Africa is coming to terms with news that it has slipped into a recession, and faces record unemployment, but the roll out of Internet For All could prove to be the boost this country needs. 52% of SAns use the internet. Getting those still unconnected online by 2020 would be just what SA needs, say economic, business and civic leaders.
“I wouldn’t have the career I have, or the business that I run if it wasn’t for the internet,” confesses Zibusiso Mkhwanazi, CEO of AVATAR Investment Holdings and AVATAR360 Group. The thirty-something co-founder of South Africa’s biggest black-owned advertising agency, Mkhawanazi says that when he first got involved in business at the age of 17 he learned everything from the internet. “I was 15 when I first accessed the internet, and it changed my life,” he says, adding: "I failed grade one and was once perceived as stupid.”
“The internet is empowering whether or not you’re the product of a poor education system. Access to the internet bridges education gaps, but it does a lot more. The internet can connect you to the global economy, build entrepreneurs, get people upskilled for employment, create access to markets and teach people how to run a business. Because of the socio-economic advantage it offers, access to the internet should be a basic human right,” he says. Mkhawanazi’s success story is a testament to how bridging the digital divide delivers growth to individuals. Importantly, it shows why Internet For All will be a SA game changer.
During the World Economic Forum on Africa in Durban in May 2017, the Ministry of Telecommunications and Postal Services, together with local and global multi-stakeholders announced a partnership to connect 22 million unconnected South Africans to the internet by 2020. Called Internet For All, the campaign promises to address barriers to connectivity by making the internet accessible, pervasive and affordable.
Economists, business leaders, academics, students, social and civic leaders say #Internet4All should be a human right because it will not only improve the economy, but uplift the lives of those who most need help. They urge South Africa’s youth to own #Internet4All, saying it would be a catalyst for economic growth, development and empowerment:
Alan Knott-Craig - Founder & CEO, Project Isizwe. Chairman of HeroTel. Telecoms, media & IT entrepreneur
“If we don’t deal with inequality in our country we won’t have a country. The internet is the easiest way to deal with inequality which is why I support #Internet4All.”
Arthur Goldstuck - SA internet guru, author, researcher and digital analyst at World Wide Worx
“The internet is the most empowering platform that the world has ever known for individuals to be enabled in almost every aspect of human endeavour from learning to job seeking, to opportunity creation. This before we even get to the internet’s social and communication benefits.”
“#Internet4All would help realise the building of skills to qualify people for new jobs, contribute greatly to job seeking and would help people creating businesses so that can potentially can become job creators themselves.”
Ayanda Kota - Founding Chairperson, Unemployed Peoples' Movement
“The internet changed my life because when you build a movement like the Unemployed People’s Movement you must connect with your community, and connect with people who have similar struggles outside of your country. This is how you organise and learn. I’ve been able to do this because I have a smartphone and internet access.”
“The internet gives me access to resources, books and information that without the internet would be very expensive. Imagine if everyone had internet access?”
“Communication in South Africa is damn expensive. It is ridiculously expensive. Free #Internet4All would change this, and impact positively on people’s life. It would definitely help unemployed people.”
Christine Ngwenya - 19 year old student at the Nelson Mandela University
“If it wasn’t for the internet and an online maths programme, I would never have gotten into university. My maths mark was really bad. If you want to do a B.Sc you need to have passed maths with a high mark. That’s the admission standard. I went to the maths programme in Diepsloot and the result was that I had a radical improvement in my maths mark. I improved my maths mark by close on 40%.”
“I think everyone should have access to the internet. The internet is important, particularly when you’re learning. If you’re given a task that you don’t understand, or a concept you don’t know, you can easily go and Google it. It is easy to find the information you need online. Without the internet you can’t find it.”
I have lots of dreams. I want to do my honours. I want to specialise in epidemiology - the sciences of diseases.
“I have always been a curious person and I use the internet for everything that I do. The internet is incredibly helpful to me in my studies. If I didn’t go to university I would be living with my Aunt in the Free State doing nothing. I would just laze around and would have eventually gone to look for a job.”
“I think of my peers who didn’t do the extra maths classes. They are all staying at home. There is only one person who didn’t do the extra maths who managed to get into university. But all the people who went to Olico are in university. Two are in UJ. One at UKZN. One at the university of the Free State.”
Daniel Friedman aka ‘Deep Fried Man’ - Musical Comedian
“Data is expensive and wifi usually comes at a price. And those in rural areas don't necessarily have internet access so it would be great if this initiative gets all South Africans connected. It could potentially be a game changer for those who see internet access as an unobtainable or unaffordable luxury.”
“Access to the internet means access to information, and that's something that all people should have equal access to!”
Gus Silber - Journalist and Social Media trainer
“The Internet serves a far greater purpose than the connection of individuals and communities through the miracle of digital technology. Internet access should not be a luxury for the privileged few. It should be seen and implemented as a basic service, as vital to a functioning democracy as water, healthcare, housing, and education. It makes absolute sense to make the Internet accessible to all in South Africa, because the Internet is a weapon, mightier than the sword, in the fight against poverty, unemployment, and isolation from the possibilities of a brighter, more enlightened tomorrow.”
Janet Hayward - Anthropologist at Rhodes University
“I support #Internet4All because it would allow people in rural areas to keep in contact with their kids, family, and community, and enable social networking and access to employment and markets. People in rural areas can be isolated geographically and economically as well as technologically. Getting people access to devices and data could offer real opportunity, particularly to rural women.”
Michael Jordaan - Investor, director and shareholder of Rain
"Internet4All makes sense for South Africa because every ten percent increase in the amount of people connected to the Internet, grows the economy by 1,4% (according to the World Bank). In SA only 50% of our population enjoy broadband connectivity so we can still double access and then grow data consumption tenfold. The economy needs all the growth we can get to alleviate unemployment and poverty. I support Internet4All as being connected to the Internet has become a basic human right in the modern era."
Mike Schussler - Economists.co.za chief economist
“The cheaper you make it for people to connect the better it is for commerce. People at the bottom of the pyramid have powerful ideas that can be realised through #Internet4All in SA.”
“#Internet4All in SA will enable people to send CVs for a job, or to get information about jobs, to discover possibilities, as well as to learn.”
“#Internet4All in SA will allow people to access markets, and to get information about how to enter and operate in markets.”
“People in the rural areas could read the news in real time if they had internet access. #Access4All will connect people and help rural people make better decisions as citizens.”
“There is a whole host of positives that would come from #Internet4All. The possibilities are massive - it may not make everyone rich overnight but people will have better tools, information, people will learn, children will become more literate. One must look at #Internet4all broadly. People want to be connected, to be informed, to grow and to better themselves.”
Musa Kalenga - change agent in SA marketing. Author and entrepreneur
“I believe that access to information changes lives. Whether this is education, health or job security - the more information people have, the better they are able to make decisions and navigate life. Internet access accelerates the wellness condition of people in the most rural parts of the world and ultimately provides a window into the world that they would otherwise not have access to.”
“I support this cause because I believe that information and knowledge are the great equalizers of our time. And whether we like it or not, the internet is the fat pipe through which equalisation gets delivered. The internet can equalize opportunity, access and tear down artificial barriers to enter markets, jobs or industries.”
Sam Paddock - Chief Executive Officer
“The internet is a fundamental enabler of human capability. It's like a super power for the people who have it. With it, we are empowered and we have choices. Without it, we are weaker and lack options. South Africa needs to rise together. And #Internet4All will contribute to our collective ascent.”
“I am passionate about education. And the biggest thing to happen to the education industry since the printing press was the invention of the internet. It puts our learning journey on steroids. It opens our minds. It connects us to others to inspire and be inspired. It gives us new tools to make change for ourselves and others. We should all have access to the internet.”
Xhanti Payi - Economist and founder of Nascence Advisory
"Access to internet means access to information. It means being connected in a world that thrives on being connected. There is talk of the fourth industrial revolution. Access to the internet will differentiate between those who participate and those who won't."
Call to action:
Join the #internet4all conversation about Internet for All - South Africa on 16 June 2017. Put your issue on the change agenda, share how the internet has changed your life, or show your support for #internet4all by saying why it’s important for SA.