In her address at a Seminar held at Mbombela Campus Professor Ngqondi presented how ICT4D can be the vehicle that transforms lives. CT4D is an initiative aimed at bridging the digital divide (the disparity between technological "have" and "have not" geographic locations or demographic groups) and aiding economic development by ensuring equitable access to up-to-date communications technologies. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) include any communication device – encompassing radio, television, cellular phones, computer and network hardware and software, satellite systems and so on, as well as the various services and applications associated with them, such as videoconferencing and distance learning. The United Nations, through its UN Development Programme, actively promotes ICT4D as a powerful tool for economic and social development around the world.
Professor Ngqondi said: "ICT4D is paramount when it comes to transforming lives. Just think back to when the pandemic started, and where we would have been, had it not been for ITC and our ability to continue teaching and learning during the first wave of the national lockdown. We would have been stuck in one place without the ability to progress or find solutions.
We used ICT during the lockdown to stay in touch with our families, we used it to safely shop from home and we used it to continue our studies, amongst others. ICT is something everyone uses and has access to, albeit in varying degrees. From my grandmother at home in her village to the CEO of a big corporate. We all use ICT to improve our lives, even when we are not consciously aware of doing it.”
Activating ICT for development
"The aim, however, is to make this a conscious process and to actively use ICT to improve lives and livelihoods. From being able to shop online, teach and learn via e-learning platforms and being able to work from home – ICT is the centre of all of our activities, be it within communities, within our homes, in the village or at university.
In terms of economic development, ICT can be implemented successfully to improve livelihoods, firstly by ensuring equitable access to it and by making sure it addresses social and economic needs within communities – not just big corporates and businesses. The best example of this is how ICT has been used to improve education. “Had it not been for ICT, most schools and universities would have shut down completely. Imagine a country with no education? A country with no education is doomed, but because of ICT, we managed to actually deliver our mandate and make sure that education continued.”
“The whole purpose of ICT4D is for us to be able to make sure that you can bring change in our communities, and we can move forward and improve lives. For this to be a success, we need full participation from all involved: information and communication technology cannot work in isolation, it needs all of us. It needs communities. It needs the private sector, it also needs industries, which is why you see government investing so much in training people to up their ICT skills.”
“We have to understand how ICT would present sustainable development, how information technology can actually enable, for example, agriculture to produce and sustain itself without affecting the livelihoods, without affecting jobs. We empower people in respective fields of study to understand how they can use ICT to produce more quality products, to improve their current strategies and methods.
Enabling effectiveness through collaboration
One of the founding principles of UMP is improving our offering through collaborative efforts. It is the same with ICT. “The effectiveness of ICT4D is informed by collaborative efforts through discipline and interdisciplinary participation. I cannot do anything in agriculture if I cannot participate with someone from agriculture. I cannot do anything in economics, if I cannot participate with someone in economics. Then we need to come together and say how we can present solutions from our own perspectives to those who will use this information to better the lives of everyone. This process and engagement is not static, and everyone can benefit.”
*This is an extract and summary of a few main points highlighted by Prof Ngqondo during the seminar.
Pictures by ChrisplPhoto.