Twenty Years of Democracy and Digital Poverty: Technology Challenges Experienced by Women in the Chris Hani Municipality of the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa
AbstractSouth Africa has introduced a few telecommunications policy changes and market reforms over the past two decades aimed at ensuring universal access to telecom services. However, this has not materialised. This study reveals the extent of digital poverty in the Eastern Cape, especially among women. The research was undertaken between 2011 and 2013,and focused on whether women in the Chris Hani municipality of the Eastern Cape have access to and use ICT and, if so, what the women use ICT for. In the Eastern Cape there is no extensive access to ICT. Moreover, the Eastern Cape has high poverty levels and deployment of ICT in this province could help to reduce poverty and improve the high illiteracy levels. This article describes the purpose of the research and background to the study, revisiting the South African ICT policy of universal service, assessing how this policy has not been effectively implemented in the Eastern Cape, and also providing a critical evaluation of how low-income women residing at the Chris Hani municipality sampled for this research have not benefitted economically, educationally or socially from the few ICT services available to them. It appears that South ICT policy makers need to reconstruct current policy to accommodate the rural poor, such as the women of the Eastern Cape. The results of this study indicate that access to ICT could also create opportunities for the women in Chris Hani municipality to use technology to improve social relations among family members who are located far apart as most men work away from home. Also, ICT could offer women communication tools to demand better social services from unaccountable government officials who have failed to deliver community development services to these communities.
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