#DataMustFall campaign highlights inequity

The #DataMustFall campaign is a grassroots movement on social media to draw attention to, and hopefully impact, the high cost of data in South Africa. Since 2016, consumers have been touting their dissatisfaction over the unfair expense of high data prices and the imbalanced effect it has on lower income community members.

In large urban centers, there is a competitive market of mobile networks that users can price shop between—including mobile, fixed-line and fiber—and a slew of internet service providers to choose from. Conversely, in less-connected communities where the majority of the population lives, connectivity is limited to mobile networks only.

The high cost of data in South Africa rivals the expense in comparative countries such as Nigeria and Egypt, and in bordering countries Malawi and Zambia. And it disproportionately impacts poorer individuals. Mobile providers bundle their data packages by size and charge more per MB for the smaller bundles. In this example, while a higher-income resident can buy 1GB of data at R149, the lower income resident has to buy it in smaller chunks to accommodate their available cash flow. So, instead they buy 100MB of data at R29 ten times. This means the lower income resident pays R290 for the same 1GB of data—almost double the price.

The movement has applied enough pressure to initiate parliamentary hearings on the topic and most recently, the attention of South Africa’s President Ramaphosa who is planning to license spectrum in a process to promote competition, transformation, inclusive growth of the sector and universal access. “This is a vital part of bringing down the costs of data, which is essential both for economic development and for unleashing opportunities for young people,” he said, then calling on “the telecommunications industry further to bring down the cost of data so that it is in line with other countries in the world”.

At Delta, we believe internet access should be accessible and affordable for all, and are proud that our Delta Smart Grid Network can help facilitate that. To learn more about our offering, check out this section of our website.

Life with load shedding

Load shedding has been top of mind for many of us here in South Africa, but many around the world may not realize the impact it can have on daily life. So here is some insight into what life is like with load shedding.

First, it’s important to understand what load shedding is. It’s an action to reduce the load on something, in this case I’m referring specifically to reducing the demand on an electrical supply in order to avoid excessive load on the generating plant. Usually reserved for a last resort solution, the act of load shedding can help prevent a system-wide blackout and allows for users affected in the shed to plan accordingly instead of being surprised by a blackout at an unknown time for an unknown duration. The “action” here is when the electrical utility purposely turns off part of the electrical grid in order to allow the other parts to remain stable.

Here’s how it works in my life:

  • When load shedding is required, I typically receive a schedule about a week in advance. That schedule will provide information similar to the following:
    • Monday: from 08:00 to 10:00 and again from 23:00 to 01:00 (Tues.)
    • Tuesday: from 12:00 to 14:00 and again from 19:00 to 21:00
    • Wednesday: none
    • Thursday: from 02:00 to 06:00
    • Friday: none
    • Saturday: from 09:00 to 11:00 and again from 16:00 to 18:00
    • Sunday: from 19:00 to 23:00
  • This means that I need to plan my days to accommodate the times when I won’t have electricity at home. Some of the tactics I use to achieve this include the following:
    • Ensure that my cell phone and laptop computer are fully charged prior to a scheduled shed
    • Minimizing the number of times I open my refrigerator and freezer to ensure no loss of food supply.
    • Making arrangements to be at a friend or family member’s house outside of the load shedding zone.
    • Scheduling work appointments and phone calls outside of the shedding window
    • Having candles, a flashlight and/or a lantern (and sufficient supply of batteries if necessary) on hand for when load shedding happens at night.

While many see load shedding as an enormous inconvenience, I have to admit I prefer it to the alternative of a country-wide blackout if the national electrical grid goes down. Until such a time that the necessary improvements can be made to the generating capacity, this is the best solution to keep everyone safe and spread the impact over a wide group of users rather than have one area get sent back to the 1700s.

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 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.

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 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.

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 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.

Delta Energy & Communications Signs Collaboration Agreement with Mzansi Digital Republic Trust

Collaboration will facilitate widespread access to the Internet to support the advancement of underserved populations in South Africa

Murrieta, CA – October 2, 2017Delta Energy & Communications, a network, smart grid, and big data company focused on providing connectivity around the globe, today announced the signing of a Collaboration Agreement with the Mzansi Digital Republic Trust, a South African non-profit organization whose mission is to extend Internet connectivity to underserved populations. Under the Agreement, the parties will work together to facilitate improvements to the energy infrastructure in South Africa, while simultaneously providing Wi-Fi connectivity. The signing of the Agreement took place at a public event at Mzansi Digital Republic in Delft, a township outside Cape Town, on Tuesday, September 26, 2017. The parties expect that extending Internet access in Delft will be initial focus of their joint efforts.

“We are excited and proud to be collaborating with Mzansi Digital Republic,” said Scott M. Foster, President and CEO of Delta Energy & Communications. “With our Delta Smart Grid Network comes not only a ubiquitous Wi-Fi network, but also an advanced smart grid solution to optimize grid efficiency, smart metering, and grid analytics—with the ability to enable real-time energy theft detection.”

The Agreement supports Mzansi Digital Republic’s continuing efforts to develop initiatives to boost Wi-Fi connectivity to Delft’s population of over 420,000 people and beyond. The Agreement will facilitate broader distribution of the Delta Smart Grid Network (DSGN), a pioneering Wi-Fi-based wireless wide area network (WWAN) that delivers Wi-Fi connectivity to the populations served by utilities, and creates opportunities for IoT engagement by telecommunications partners and OEMs.

“The Delta solution provides the opportunity to bring connectivity within reach, and in so doing, bring the requisite capacity to promote active citizenry,” said Pastor Charles George, Executive Chairperson of Mzansi Digital Republic. “With the DSGN we can realize Mzansi’s vision of a smart township—where all municipal services are integrated to enable government and residents alike to address developmental challenges, and ultimately bridge the digital divide.”

In addition to enabling increased connectivity, it is the parties’ hope that the Agreement will result in opportunities for job creation with respect to the installation and servicing of the DSGN.

Foster concluded, “We look forward to working with Mzansi Digital Republic to empower communities to join us in our passion for connectivity.”

For more information on Delta Energy & Communications, please visit www.deltaglobalnetwork.com, and connect with us on LinkedIn and Facebook.


About Delta Energy & Communications
Delta Energy & Communications is a network, smart grid and big data company that provides a transformative technology to connect millions around the globe. Delta’s novel approach brings connective technology to developing regions wherever there is electricity. In doing so, it helps utilities realize the benefits of data analytics. Delta’s core values of dignity, empowerment, transparency and innovation are the foundation for working with its partners and improving the communities it serves. Delta is headquartered in Murrieta, California and has offices in Cape Town, South Africa. For more information, please visit www.deltaglobalnetwork.com.

About Mzansi Digital Republic Trust
Mzansi Digital Republic Trust was founded by Home of Compassion, a non-profit organization focused on holistic human capital development in disadvantaged communities, and I.C.E Media Group, a company focused on using media and technology as an empowerment tool to the masses. In 2014, Home of Compassion partnered with the Western Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism to implement part of their Broad Band Strategy of free basic Wi-Fi in Delft and surrounding communities with huge success. As phase two of this initiative, Home of Compassion and its partners built an economic model focused on digitization that birthed Mzansi Digital Republic.

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; 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.

Addressing Poverty in South Africa

South Africa weaves a rich tapestry of cultural and ethnic diversity. From the streets of its metropolitan cities to the rural villages of its hinterlands, South Africa’s predominantly young population is characterised by a wide range of languages, religious beliefs and customs. According to Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), in 2011, the population of South Africa was 51. 8 million.

Last year, Statistics South Africa published a report that updates the national and provincial poverty lines, setting the minimum socially acceptable standard to separate the poor from the non-poor. Stats SA’s new poverty lines come from a cost-of-basic-needs approach, including both food and non-food. It calculates the minimum amount of money you need to survive. Those who fall below that line live in poverty.

It uses three lines of poverty – the food poverty line (FPL), the lower bound poverty line (LBPL) and the upper bound poverty line (UBPL). The FPL sets the rand value below which you can’t purchase enough food to meet a minimum energy intake, about 2,100 kilo-calories a day. The next two categories take into account other needs. Those below the LBPL line do not have enough money to purchase both adequate food items and non-food items, thus, have to sacrifice food to pay for essential and non-essential items such as transport and airtime. The UBPL group are still considered in poverty, but can generally purchase both food and non-food items.

The latest statistics say that 21.7% of South Africans live in extreme poverty, not being able to pay for basic nutritional requirements; 37% of people don’t have enough money to purchase both adequate food items and non-food items so they have to sacrifice food to pay for things like transport and airtime; 53.8% of people can afford enough food and non-food items but fall under the widest definition of poverty in SA, surviving on under R779 per month.

The Stats SA food poverty line is equivalent to a person living on $2.34 a day, “which is almost double the international poverty line for extreme poverty ($1.25).” The report continues, “The LBPL is [purchasing power parity] $3.50 day and the UBPL is [purchasing power parity] $5.43, slightly above the highest international poverty line of purchasing power parity $5 referenced by the World Bank and other international agencies. When converted to purchasing power parity, the poverty lines for South Africa are above the most extreme international lines, but within the maximum used for international comparisons for developing countries.”

As South Africans, we need to look to the future and see what we can individually and collectively do to change the state of poverty in South Africa. One compelling proposition involves the faciltitation of Public Private Partnerships, recognizing the efficiencies gained through the pairing of for-profit business organizations with both local government instituations and non-governmental humanitarian organizations (NGO’s). What if an international business operation, collaborating locally, could field a technology-centric methodology for empowering local educational NGO’s with rural access to the global Internet? Open and available information is a primary component of individual engagement, education, empowerment, and ultimately, autonomy.
This vision and the underlying philosphy are core to Delta Energy & Communications. At Delta, we believe in Profits with a Purpose to empower both local communities and local enterprise through our Delta Squared strategy, which emPOWERs businesses and their communities by working to solve both business and social issues in tandem.