Closing the digital gap could be the first step in the right direction.

Despite the increased affordability of technology and Internet access being seemingly ubiquitous, a digital divide between the “haves” and the “have nots” remains.

Historically, adequately leveraging global technology to improve the lives of those who need it the most is admittedly a “hit and miss” endeavour. In Africa, the digital divide is about more than providing access.

It is about creating a technology transcending ecosystem of individuals and organisations equipped to develop solutions that solve problems specific to their environment. These problems are, more often than not, socio-economic.

South Africa and Africa’s next big app idea has to solve youth unemployment, the water crisis and lengthy waiting periods at a public hospital, coupled with a host of other issues faced by our country and continent. For that to happen, a considered effort in bridging the digital divide is required.

Crossing the great digital divide

Firstly, a diverse set of partners is necessary to move innovations along the commercialisation pathway to deployment. In developed countries, market co-ordination of RDD&D (research, design, development and demonstration) depends on a set of tools that govern the interactions of the players.

In our case, there is a requirement to build capacity so that projects requiring co-ordination among partners can benefit from this type of resource pooling. For the past decade, Axiz has positioned itself to be such an environment, where technology meets needs and ongoing capacitation, collaboration and participation of partners is fortified.

At the same time, there are opportunities to improve the set of tools to encourage co-ordination among partners. While robust competition is healthy for the industry as a whole, the channel ought to be aware when this becomes limiting or a barrier to success.

Improved and even expanded definitions of deployment models will allow the channel to improve the success rate of commercialisation as well as understand better and facilitate the financing needs of deployment partners. This is the foundation to create solutions that lower risk while increasing ROI, ultimately seeking to connect deployment partners with workable distribution and financing options.

The effects of the digital divide are more pronounced when society implicitly demands that underfunded and underdeveloped communities do far more with far less. The old “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” or, in this case, “fibre-optics cabling” adage rings true and we must be wary of its implications.

The onus is on us, the channel, to provide real and tangible value for society. Even if we lived in a world where addressing poverty with technology was a well-funded public priority, there would still be recurring challenges inherent to the system ie, RDD&D itself. Our approach, yes – you included, needs to be people-centred and technologies enabled.

Lastly, the industry has to ask itself whether we have fully explored the potential of the tools and expertise at our disposal, which may provide workable solutions to the vast majority of South Africans.

Rather than constraining our focus to the debate over funding, or specific projects, there are vital opportunities to benefit significantly from challenging and ultimately changing the system. Axiz has, and will always, champion a channel-centric innovation ecosystem comprising entities and individuals with the potential and kinetic energy to effect change.

We understand that the rules regulating the world we live in today will not suffice in tomorrow’s world with tomorrow’s needs. Perhaps the industry could reorient the technology foresight community, ie, the channel, to adopting an explicit pro-societal, problem-solving perspective when considering future technology developments.

That would immediately address the archetype of lineal technology diffusion, which often fails to pay sufficient attention to the equitable distribution of innovation.

Imagine an infinite feedback loop between the public, the partner, the distributor and back to the vendor – that’s the reality we are asking you to create with us.