Digital Inclusion as a driver of economic growth in South Africa

The far-reaching impact of the Internet since its introduction cannot be denied. It enabled the introduction of a myriad of digital devices that have since progressed society in numerous ways; some anticipated and others not. That progression has enabled many challenges to be overcome while at the same time creating new challenges, like the Digital …

The far-reaching impact of the Internet since its introduction cannot be denied. It enabled the introduction of a myriad of digital devices that have since progressed society in numerous ways; some anticipated and others not. That progression has enabled many challenges to be overcome while at the same time creating new challenges, like the Digital Divide previously written about by my colleague. When used correctly digital inclusion can drive economic growth. Take South Africa, for example:

In South African President Ramaphosa’s recent State of the Nation Address, he emphasized that the prioritization of education and the development of skills must be at the center of the country’s efforts to achieve higher and more equitable growth, draw young people into employment and prepare the country for the digital age. The president noted that over the next six years the government will provide a tablet device with digital workbooks and textbooks to every school child, starting with those schools that have been historically most disadvantaged and are located in the poorest communities, including multigrade, multiphase, farm and rural schools.

Further, President Ramaphosa recognized that small businesses play a vital role in stimulating economic activity and employment, and in advancing broad-based empowerment. As such, the government of South Africa will be expanding its small business incubation program to provide entrepreneurs with physical space, infrastructure and shared services, access to specialized knowledge, market linkages, training in new technology and access to finance. As part of the expansion program, township digital hubs will be established in four provinces with more to follow. I previously wrote about such a hub when discussing Mzansi Digital Republic’s work in my post on connected societies.

As other South African citizens like myself ponder the President’s remarks, for me, the Delta Smart Grid Network™ comes to mind as a solution to support the efforts outlined above. It fills in the gaps left by current telecommunications providers through the building of a community-wide Wi-Fi infrastructure while at the same time addressing some of the electricity challenges facing the country today.

Social issues are important too

All year long we believe business needs and social issues should not be mutually exclusive. With another holiday season here, our belief in that concept is underscored. Business models should not only provide positive economic outcomes for our customers, but they should also address social issues in the larger community – especially in underserved populations …

All year long we believe business needs and social issues should not be mutually exclusive. With another holiday season here, our belief in that concept is underscored. Business models should not only provide positive economic outcomes for our customers, but they should also address social issues in the larger community – especially in underserved populations around the world. And, while we work toward that end, we are each supporting the communities in which we live and operate. I’m proud that Delta’s employees prioritize making a positive impact where they live. Whether through donating goods, money or time, Delta’s team makes a concerted effort to highlight the importance of social issues while we work to empower the communities we serve.

If we can help communities to build out infrastructure in the right way, we can empower and enhance the economic positions of our customers. And, in parallel, we can address critical social issues by enabling broader access to a world of knowledge and economic opportunity otherwise inaccessible to many of these same communities. This in turn enables opportunities for those in underserved populations to empower and better their own futures. Specifically:

  • Education – Wi-Fi empowers the community, giving them an opportunity to learn, grow, and gain access to new information and skills.
  • Microenterprise/Local economy – The DSGN provides the platform to explore business ideas, research, and turn concepts into reality.
  • Community Infrastructure – Delta brings communities into the digital world, providing a foundation for optimized infrastructure and energy resources while enabling global, digital citizenship.

We are incredibly proud of our employees and the work we do with our partners around the world to not only help improve their businesses, but also help communities grow and thrive.

Connected Societies

We know that access to the internet has the capability to economically propel communities around the world, as my colleagues previously shared regarding emerging markets and rural America. But how do we take that access and convert it from individual use to a truly connected society? The community in Delft, South Africa provides us with …

We know that access to the internet has the capability to economically propel communities around the world, as my colleagues previously shared regarding emerging markets and rural America. But how do we take that access and convert it from individual use to a truly connected society? The community in Delft, South Africa provides us with an example.

The Delft government and the Mzansi Digital Republic (MDR) are working to implement public Wi-Fi to boost the local economy. MDR’s aim is to create digital citizens with the vision of unlocking the knowledge-based economy. To do that, they consider a multi-faceted approach to power, IoT infrastructure and internet access, connected devices, online community, e-commerce, and online support. Through their disruptive model of realigning the value chain of consumption and actualizing new opportunities for business, employment and social engagement, MDR is connecting the society in Delft in ways that haven’t been done before. As a result, local tech businesses have grown, generating local employment, facilitating digital commerce and ushering in local economic empowerment, thereby preventing a large amount of money from trickling out of the community.

In general, connected societies like the one developing in Delft will open opportunities for more collective action in regards to single-issue movements, while open government initiatives and access to public sector data will lead to more transparency and citizen-focused public services. The critical backbone to a connected society is a robust communications infrastructure that can support the required level of community connectivity. The Delta Smart Grid Network comes to mind as a solution—it fills in the gaps left by current telecommunications providers through the building of a community-wide Wi-Fi infrastructure.

Broadband Internet in Rural America

Last summer, our team wrote about the Digital Divide and how the Internet can empower and propel emerging markets. While we’ve seen some progress on connectivity solutions in the past year, there is still a way to go—and it’s not just emerging markets that would benefit from more affordable, reliable internet access. According to the …

Last summer, our team wrote about the Digital Divide and how the Internet can empower and propel emerging markets. While we’ve seen some progress on connectivity solutions in the past year, there is still a way to go—and it’s not just emerging markets that would benefit from more affordable, reliable internet access. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 34 million people in the U.S. lack access to broadband internet—23 million of those people are rural Americans. And while an increasing number of schools have high-speed connections, approximately 41 percent of schools (47 percent of American students), lack the connectivity to meet the FCC’s short-term goal of 100 Mbps per 1,000 students/staff.

As with emerging markets, rural Americans would benefit from reliable, affordable broadband access. State and local officials see broadband access as essential for economic development, access to educational opportunities and access to “telemedicine” so that rural patients can use the Internet to consult with medical specialists in urban areas.

The main obstacle to broadband access in rural America is cost—that’s where the Delta Smart Grid Network (DSGN) comes in. As a pioneering 2.4 GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi-based wireless wide area network (WWAN) that reduces the need for telecommunications infrastructure build-out, the DSGN delivers broadband Internet to the populations served by its utility customers, while also creating opportunities for IoT engagement and monetization by its telecommunications partners and OEMs. This leveraging of the electrical grid and the providing of a sufficient return on investment to electrical utilities and associated partners entices the private sector to get involved, thus overcoming cost obstacles and enabling consumers of electricity to have broadband Internet access.

The Value of Earning Community Buy-In

Many of our customers share our vision for wanting to help communities – underserved populations especially – to build out their infrastructure in the right way to empower them and better their own futures. A digitally connected community can learn, grow, and gain access to new information and enhance each individual’s position as global digital …

Many of our customers share our vision for wanting to help communities – underserved populations especially – to build out their infrastructure in the right way to empower them and better their own futures. A digitally connected community can learn, grow, and gain access to new information and enhance each individual’s position as global digital citizens.

Yet, despite the greatest intentions, if one fails to earn community buy-in and invest in the community when trying to do something good, that project could unravel – whether from residents’ discontent with the disruption from implementing infrastructure in a neighborhood, or a community’s high rates of vandalism and other crimes. But, if one starts by building relationships in the community and understanding its needs, keeping those stakeholders and residents involved in the process, and demonstrating the ongoing commitment to the community, one will have most likely earned the buy-in needed to succeed.

In a key example in Delft, South Africa, the government and the Mzansi Digital Republic wanted to implement public WiFi to boost the local economy. But, this would not have been possible without securing the buy-in of the community up front – especially given that Delft is considered one of the top 10 worst crime areas in Cape Town. The Mzansi Digital Republic took the time to approach leaders in several of the neighborhoods in Delft to explain the value of the project to that particular neighborhood, and earn the trust and buy-in of these leaders. In accomplishing this, these leaders spread the news throughout the community and served as advocates for the project. As a result, local tech businesses have grown, generating local employment, facilitating digital commerce and ushering in local economic empowerment, thereby preventing a large amount of money from trickling out of the community.

In another example in Chino Hills, California, residents and community stakeholders were pushing back on the Southern California Edison Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project, which would disrupt the surrounding communities and state park. After six years of discussion with the community, the commission found a compromise that satisfied community members – to underground the lines and build the nation’s first subterranean 500-kv line along a 3.5-mile stretch.

Bridgiot’s Dropula smart water meter project for schools in the Western Cape of South Africa is another key example of companies prioritizing community buy-in. After the Shoprite Group piloted Bridgiot’s Dropula smart water meter at Hector Peterson Secondary, where the school was able to save three million liters of water in three months, a Smart Water Meter Challenge was proposed to help the 1,672 schools across the Western Cape save water as well. Schools were invited to sign up to have a smart water meter installed, and local businesses and companies were invited to donate to sponsor installations at more schools. In unifying the community toward a common goal, the company was able to secure the buy-in needed to succeed in the region.

Having conversations and developing relationships with community stakeholders and residents such as in Delft and the Western Cape, and even making larger accommodations like in Chino Hills, offers an important way in which utilities can gain community support; and, in turn, help those communities to thrive.

Readers, what your thoughts on earning community buy-in? Share your ideas and/or questions with us here.

Doing well by doing good

With the holidays upon us, many of us at Delta are thinking about how we can “give back” and have a positive impact on our communities and the greater world. At our core, we at Delta believe business and social issues should not be mutually exclusive—which is why so many of us take time from …

With the holidays upon us, many of us at Delta are thinking about how we can “give back” and have a positive impact on our communities and the greater world. At our core, we at Delta believe business and social issues should not be mutually exclusive—which is why so many of us take time from our busy professional schedules to give back during this season, and throughout the year.

Whether making monetary or goods donations to organizations like St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, local schools, churches and veterans organizations, or donating our time at local food banks and senior citizen centers, our employees are doing well by doing good. That same spirit is reflected in our company commitment to empowering sustainable business models that not only provide positive economic outcomes for our customers, but also do good for the larger community – especially in underserved populations around the world.

If we can help communities to build out infrastructure in the right way, we can empower and enhance the economic positions of our customers. And, in parallel, we can address critical social issues by enabling broader access to a world of knowledge otherwise inaccessible to many of these same communities. This in turn enables opportunities for those in underserved populations to empower and better their own futures. That’s especially significant in places like sub-Saharan Africa, where more than two-thirds of the population are without access to electricity and many do not enjoy the same digital connectivity many take for granted in developed regions.

From an educational standpoint, a digitally connected community is empowered to learn, grow, and gain access to new information. This access also provides a platform for communities to explore business ideas, research, and turn concepts into a reality. And finally, it helps brings communities into the broader digital world, enhancing their position as a global digital citizen.

We are incredibly proud of our employees and the work we do with our partners around the world to not only help improve their businesses, but also help communities grow and thrive.

Click here to learn more about Delta, and share your thoughts and questions with us here.

The Digital Divide: How the Internet can empower and propel emerging markets

Since the Internet’s inception decades ago, its far-reaching impact on the world is undeniable. More than 3.7 billion people are now connected around the globe, which has strengthened the flow of information, increased communication, and enabled the growth and success of countless enterprises and industries. Despite this undeniable impact, a large percentage of the world …

Since the Internet’s inception decades ago, its far-reaching impact on the world is undeniable. More than 3.7 billion people are now connected around the globe, which has strengthened the flow of information, increased communication, and enabled the growth and success of countless enterprises and industries.

Despite this undeniable impact, a large percentage of the world still does not have access to the Internet, especially in developing countries. This lack of Internet connectivity inhibits individuals and organizations from learning, growing and developing their digital economies, ultimately creating a deep divide between urban centers and rural districts.  In short, many believe that this lack of connectivity may even slow the economic growth in some developing regions.

The second most populated country in the world, India, has only about 30 percent of its population Internet connected. At the same time, it provides an example of how expanding Internet access helps to elevate both individuals and a country as a whole.

In 2001, only seven million people in India were connected to the Internet. Today, the country has over 391 million users. Some believe that this increase in Internet availability has allowed India’s small businesses to realize greater economic achievements. For example, doctors are able to expand the scope of their geographical activities, and students are able to gain access to otherwise unattainable information.  Internet access is also enabling visually and physically challenged students at the Balagangadharanatha Swamiji Blind Residential School in India to expand their educational opportunities. In fact, one student has been so inspired by the ability to learn more through the Internet that he’s now building an app that can help other blind people with health-related information.

It’s a similar story in South Africa, where Internet access is improving, but remains well behind the global standard. Approximately 16 percent of the world’s population lives in Africa, but the Internet serves only about 9 percent of that population.

The roll out of public Wi-Fi in Delft, South Africa is another critical example of how increasing access to the Internet can open up opportunities for many. The expansion of public Wi-Fi has enabled local tech businesses to create jobs in the community, thereby boosting the economy and stemming the outflow of residents who were leaving the area.

Fortunately, new technologies can bring about a resolution to a lack of Internet access worldwide and allow emerging markets like India and South Africa to grow and prosper.

At Delta, we understand the importance of increasing access to the Internet to support these underserved populations through our Delta Smart Grid Network (DSGN™) – a singular, standardized, and scalable network that enables these communities to not only optimize power delivery, but also build out a Wi-Fi network, essentially creating a large hot-spot.

Through this critical Internet access, we are providing the opportunity for these communities to expand education, develop new enterprises and, ultimately flourish.

Solving business and social issues in tandem: how our technology helps developing communities grow

Food, water, energy – these are the three most fundamental social needs facing the world’s population. And at the point where these three basic needs intersect there are even more difficult challenges to address – it takes water to create food and energy; it takes energy to move, heat and treat water, and to produce …

Food, water, energy – these are the three most fundamental social needs facing the world’s population. And at the point where these three basic needs intersect there are even more difficult challenges to address – it takes water to create food and energy; it takes energy to move, heat and treat water, and to produce food; and sometimes food crops become the source of energy. Because they are interconnected and interdependent, actions or change with respect to one will certainly impact another or both.

Today we also see emerging markets expanding exponentially; all while critical infrastructure and necessary resources are lagging. Without Internet access, these underserved populations in the developing world aren’t able to utilize web-based healthcare or education resources to improve their earning ability or advance their well-being. Not to mention the challenges brought about by the digital divide between urban centers and rural districts, and poorly developed and/or managed infrastructure that make it even more difficult. Despite these challenges, and rather than relying on the legacy infrastructure available in the developing world, there are opportunities to adopt and implement technologies specifically suited for local market conditions. By focusing on new technologies to address these needs and pursuing public-private partnerships, it’s possible for emerging markets to move forward toward development, prosperity and growth.

At Delta, we understand the association between these needs, and how energy and Wi-Fi can provide the foundation for people in developing communities to grow and thrive. We recognize how our unique solution can be brought to bear in taking on and solving these kinds of local social and economic issues, in order to provide opportunities for those in underserved populations to become empowered to better their future.

For example, when a local utility builds out and optimizes its system using our Delta Smart Grid Network (DSGN™) – a singular, standardized, and scalable network that enables underserved communities – it’s not only optimizing its power delivery, it’s also building out our Wi-Fi network, essentially creating a large hot-spot. And with Internet access now available, the opportunity to expand education, support micro-enterprise and empower the local economy will surely follow.

Our philosophy at Delta is that business and social issues are not mutually exclusive; each needs to be addressed in ways that empower the other. Through efficient access to energy and then access to the Internet, underserved populations will be able to tap into the many Internet-based resources currently unavailable to them. They’re then empowered to pursue microenterprise and contribute to the local economy.

Ultimately, our vision is to engage with global non-profits and development funds to realize and expand this capability in these underserved markets.