Lockdown has exposed tech gulf between SA and rest of the world, say experts

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Before the pandemic, President Cyril Ramaphosa had big plans for the fourth industrial revolution in the country, improving people’s lives through technology. But the lockdown has exposed just how far behind South Africa is compared with other countries.

JOHANNESBURG – It’s been six months since the start of lockdown and the nation is taking stock, which includes education experts who’re raising concerns about the ability of the system to withstand shocks like this one.

Before the pandemic, President Cyril Ramaphosa had big plans for the fourth industrial revolution in the country, improving people’s lives through technology.

But the lockdown has exposed just how far behind South Africa is compared with other countries.

When lockdown hit, the big plan was to take learning online – there were zero-rated apps and a full suite of TV and radio programmes for learners to keep up, but the realities of South Africa were a major barrier.

Educational specialist Professor Mary Metcalfe said that the pandemic had been a real wake-up call.

“This is something that remains an aspiration, not a reality. Very few people have access to a computer at home and wi-fi they can afford and that is reliable.”

When it comes to higher education, Professor Ahmed Bawa, CEO of Universities South Africa shared the same concern but said that there was hope through partnerships with possible funders.

“The shift to online emergency learning went well at some universities, but simply could not be implemented at other institutions. That’s an issue we have to take up immediately.”

Meanwhile, experts are hoping that the sector will learn from the mistakes made during the lockdown and use the coming months to correct and improve.

Meanwhile, economist Iraj Abedian said that the six months had hammered the country’s economy and little had been done to protect it.

“Every day that we do not come up with a credible turnaround strategy, we see a few thousand more jobs lost and small businesses going under.”

On the business front, managing director at Worldwide Works, Arthur Goldstuck, said that many companies used this time to transform to survive in an ever-changing digital world.

“What the crisis has shown us is how dramatic the digital divide is and the impact it has on the population and economy.”

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