The COVID-19 pandemic has precipitated a migration from physical work spaces in many sectors of the economy to online, digital services, supported by staff working from home. Parts of the economy such as mining, manufacturing and hospitality still require workers to be physically present. But other sectors have discovered that virtual platforms are effective substitutes for offices.
Online, however, requires digital infrastructure and services in information and communication technology (ICT). Digital infrastructure is essential to meet the new demand for virtual services as quickly and cheaply as possible. On top of this the potential of digital technologies to support economic growth is apparent. Many developing countries have comprehensive national strategies and initiatives to foster data mining, digital intelligence, e-government and e-commerce. These include India and China.
A number of countries have successfully harnessed the digital revolution to enable broader socio-economic development. But South Africa has fallen behind. It has slid down the International Telecommunications Union’s Information Society Index. The index measures countries’ evolution towards becoming information societies based on three measures: readiness, intensity and impact. For instance, readiness is measured through indicators of access and skills. The 2018 index places South Africa 104th out of 144 countries in terms of access to fixed broadband, down from 77th in 2002.
So what’s gone wrong?
Read more: South Africa has failed to harness the digital revolution: how it can fix the problem. The Conversation, November 4, 2020