According to a UCT study, “the government solely depends on B-BBEE compliance from ICT businesses to assist in bridging the digital divide of the country. However, because of the modest compliance with this policy, the digital divide is still a reality in South Africa.”
Recognising the imperative of bridging the digital divide, IFS moved from a level 7 B-BBEE rating, to a level 3 – within one year. For IFS though it wasn’t about the destination, but rather the journey.
Part of this journey was to build a computer lab, that is fully equipped with computers and the internet, for an underserved primary school in the community of Diepsloot in Gauteng. Furthermore IFS provided education bursaries to aspiring students who are entering the tertiary education market as well as those who have been laid off, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and are using this difficult period to pivot their careers into technology focused ones.
Emma Murray, IFS Managing Director for the Africa Market says, “While we are thrilled with the result, the journey was intentional with a very clear direction of narrowing the digital divide. With unemployment reaching an all-time high of 32.50 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020, addressing social and digital inequality has never been as important and should be a moral imperative of all industry players”.
Being denied access to information and skills development due to poor infrastructure and the digital divide just isn’t acceptable, particularly as the country prepares to harness new technologies to drive efficiencies and economic growth. Additionally, businesses are experiencing rapid digital transformation, brought about by Covid-19, and need skilled partners and youth with work experience to enable them to leverage technology and deliver on their moments of service to their customers. Job creation and economic growth would just not be possible if ICT businesses continue in this vein.
For example, in the new online learning environment teachers who did not have the requisite digital skills were at a huge disadvantage as their working environment changed overnight – similarly a new digital barrier emerged for those who wanted to enter the profession. Frontline workers experienced similar immediate challenges as Covid-19 hit as they had to access and work with new digital tools on a daily basis. Through the YES initiative IFS was able to target and assist teachers and frontline workers specifically, providing them with on the job training and skills development opportunities.
The on the job training and the benefits thereof, in this instance within the healthcare and education sectors, was a practical step for IFS as the digital skills learnt are essential for the workforce of the future, and the youth who have benefited from it can participate meaningfully in the economy – making it a sustainable solution.
One story worth noting is that IFS was able to support an entrepreneur who took a big knock financially after the Covid-19 pandemic landed on South African shores. She could not continue offering experiential marketing services and experiences to her clients. Now hope has been regained by this student because the IFS bursary will allow her to gain digital experiential marketing skills that will enable her to revive her business.
“The actions taken over the past year have been met with excitement and energy from our staff, and we are proud to be leading the industry in the change that is much needed towards an inclusive, digitally fair playing field. This will help pave the way for job creation and new business growth that will drive the economy forward,” concludes Murray.