This article is written by Water Matli, Faculty of Applied and Computer Sciences, Vaal University of Technology, for the July 2018 Edition of the SDG Bulletin South Africa. The SDG Bulletin South Africa is a collaborative product of the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, the United Nations in South Africa and the South African SDG Hub.
Internationally, leaders throughout the world gathered to share idea and get objectives of targeting issues that affect the world. Agenda 2030 emerged with 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), among the 17 SDG goals are – addressing inequalities, employment and fighting poverty (United Nations 2015).
Most people from rural and township areas in South Africa do not have sufficient Information and Communication Technology (ICT) skills and resources, particularly those who are Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET). However, there is moderate progress made in recent years by both government and private sector to afford people who are NEET with access to the internet and ICT skills. In the South African case, the government is working hard towards providing enabling ICT infrastructure to its citizens. Some of the traceable supporting evidence includes but is not limited to issuing of tablets to learners in government basic education levels of schooling. This includes non-fee paying schools, and access to free public Wi-Fi hotspots, particularly in disadvantaged communities and townships.
In 2014, the Gauteng premier, Mr David Makhura, launched the Tshepo 500 000 programme for youth in the province. And later, in May 2017, the premier doubled the target from the Tshepo 500 000 programme to the Tshepo One millionprogramme. The 5 year programme (2014-2019) seeks to empower one million young people through entrepreneurial development, job placement and skills training over five years. People who are NEET are afforded with the opportunity to gain and/or enhance their ICT skills among other skills. Another recent interventions include Youth Employment Services(YES) launched by President, Ramaphosa in 2018. The YES hubs in townships provide 24/7 access to internet connection through Wi-Fi hotspots.
The Department of statistics South Africa released a report in 2016 looking at the distribution and comparison of household goods by ownership in 2011 and 2016. Cell phones also known as mobile phones can be categorised into two categories, namely smart mobile phone and low-end technology mobile phones. The advancement of Cell phones allows people to have internet access in a convenient way. The increase in the ownership of cell phones from 88.9% in 2011 to 93.8 in 2016 suggests that more people have digital skills to navigate and are familiar with cell phone functionalities. Cell phone technology plays a significant role in the process of developing people who are NEET – information is easily disseminated on smart mobile phones.
ICTs have found space in our environment and continues to transform the lives of people positively, grow economies of other communities, and subsequently, changing the labour landscape. Current economic opportunities require people to have digital literacy skills to be productive in businesses. The internet is at the centre of connecting people to the rest of the world.
The impact of unemployment affect people who are NEET is unbearable. Herein lies the greatest concern to the entire world. It is not surprising that employment is targeted as part of the SDG goal 8 of the 17 goals. The SDG posit the importance of growing the economy with sustainable jobs that will lead to decent jobs (United Nations 2015). It has become a challenge for young people who are inactive and unskilled in ICT literacy to find employment due to the increase use of ICTs by a large number of organisations. A 2013 Western Cape Government report raised concerns about having a population that are not developed before the ages of 25. The report posit that, if a person reaches 25 years and they have not attained basic educational qualifications and/or employment skills and experience there is a high possibility that the person will never acquire this skill in their lifetime. Therefore, addressing the gap of ICT skills, as early as possible in one’s life, is one of the most fundamental actions to grow and develop the capacity of people who are NEET to effectively participate in economic activities.
Reflecting closely on the analysis on the 17 SDG goals, the African Union Africa agenda 2063 and the South African NDP 2030 plan, all these documents share numerous prominent features that will have an impact on people who are NEET. These include, but are not limited to; fighting unemployment, fostering an inclusive economy and reducing the worryingly high rate of youth inactive in economic activities.
Nonetheless, without addressing ICT infrastructure, ICT skills and the cost of data, which continue to act as obstacles to active participation in digital economic activities (particularly for young people); developing the capacity of people who are NEET, eradicating unemployment and creating inclusive growth will remain a pipedream.