One of the key delivery points for our municipalities is that of creating self-sufficient communities that are able to move forward on their own, from where they have been “assisted” to.This “assistance”, I suppose, is another critical item on the agenda of the local economic development (LED) desk of the municipality, at least in our smaller ones. The question is, how?
Digital access nowadays is a critical delivery point in the betterment of the lives of the people. It stands to reason that, for an LED desk to claim efficiency in delivery, ensuring digital access for their communities should be on its priority list.
This will translate to access to myriad life-improving aspects: education enhancing access; free online applications to institutions of higher learning; access to free courses for alternative personalised learning sponsored by global known institutions; self-teaching and lifelong learning for everyone through access to free courses from a number of sponsored global platforms; access to alternative virtual teaching; access to employment opportunities (jobs, learnership, internships and consequently ease of applying for these); education-enhancing information for both teachers and learners (such as open teaching and learning resources) – the list is endless.
I am in Cathcart, a small community that is battling economically and otherwise. This town is under the Amahlathi Municipality. Life is stagnant for almost everyone here: no job opportunities, no further education opportunities, and many more!
There is no public internet access outlet in town, not a single one. However, the Department of Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture has equipped public libraries with a couple of desktop computers and Wi-Fi connection that is still “inaccessible” to the intended users. At present, the cost of accessing internet in the library is R8.60 for 15 minutes and R35 an hour, whereas, at all the profit-making public internet outlets in Queenstown, the charge is R10 an hour, and these still make a profit.
As an illustration, the Cathcart community does extended business in Queenstown. We pay R60 return fare. I often go to Queenstown for business and also access internet for, say, about five hours for R50. So R60 + R50 = R110, yet if I would sit for five hours in the public library in Cathcart, I would cough up R35 by 5 (hours) = R175. Still, there is a lot of savings in paying transport to Queenstown.
Affordable internet access will benefit all in a number of ways. LED desks should be vocal on these, through exerting influence in Integrated Development Plans and consequently municipality budget processes, as in the end credit goes to them when lives improve in communities.
Perhaps these are decided in our councils out of limited scope of their potential impact (internet access), hence the necessity of collaborative efforts from other departments that have interest in improved service delivery, probably Basic Education, Economic Development, Communications! — Nomahlubi Mabizela, Cathcart