Bridging the great divide

Michele C du Plessis

Starting a new printed newspaper in a time where many popular publications decided to “go digital” seems like utter madness. Why not just provide the newspaper on various digital platforms instead of producing a free paper newspaper?

Here I must commend Luther Diedericks, Editor and owner of the new SUPERB News for his vision and knowledge of South African business. Luther has a deep understanding of the myriad problems we face in our country and that many people face daily and is passionate about the entrepreneurial revolution that he is creating.

Industry disrupted

The COVID-19 pandemic has and is disrupting every industry, creating both opportunity and challenges. The media has played an important role throughout history and an even bigger role during the COVID-19 pandemic, even though there have been many challenges to the industry. Social distancing led to a definite increase in at-home media consumption and news providers must produce timely and trusted information. The industry also faces key challenges in the future of advertising and attention to digital news platforms.

Why a printed newspaper?

So, WHY a printed newspaper when everyone is digitalizing their information? Socio-economic challenges, such as poverty and unemployment, high levels of illiteracy, skills shortages and the lack of technological skills create a need for a news medium that doesn’t require the press of buttons or swiping screens on cell phones. Low levels of infrastructure, insufficient bandwidth to allow sufficient telephone lines to upgrade the level of Internet connectivity is one more problem.

In the largely rural areas of South Africa, there is a challenge of access to the Internet due to poverty and lack of resources; the costs of technology; lack of infrastructure and bandwidth challenges for telecommunication and Internet access; limited or no access to electricity/ power; low levels of literacy among many and hence a challenge with the dominant English language that is mainly used on the Internet.

Digital divide

An excerpt from The “first” and “third world” in Africa: knowledge access, challenges and current technological innovations in Africa by Segametsi Molawa, Africa Institute of South Africa (AISA) states the following: “An in-depth analysis of Africa against the world highlights the fact that in the proportion of Internet users against the continental population Africa is lagging far behind the rest of the world, with only 6.4% of its total population using the Internet. Europe has close to 50% of its total population using the Internet. This perhaps explains the notion that there is more access to global knowledge in the “first” world countries due to developed ICT and Internet access as compared to Africa. The digitization process, therefore, benefits the “first” world more, as they have tools to access global knowledge. The challenge remains bridging the digital divide that deprives most people in Africa access to digital knowledge.”

A contribution

Producing a printed newspaper that is passionate about the education, upliftment and information of young and old is of the utmost importance if the digital divide is to be overcome in time. Producing a newspaper that will provide essential information and inspire many people with dreams of becoming an entrepreneur is crucial. Providing information, support and knowledge to existing entrepreneurs and business owners to become more successful is a first step in creating more employment opportunities, thus alleviating the poverty and unemployment in our beautiful country.

A matter of priorities

“No one without food and shelter will bother to access the Internet, but when this basic need is adequately addressed an escalation to the next step in terms of developmental needs will take place in that particular group of people,” Segametsi Molawa said. There is no quick-fix or a “one size fits all” approach to addressing the needs of people. One step taken in the right direction leads to a journey that can make a vast difference.

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