The dark cloud of legal racial segregation has been lifted from South Africa as the country celebrates 15 years of democracy. The country has experienced a renaissance that has allowed South Africa to flourish economically, politically, and racially. An emerging black middle class has materialized; however, despite its success, the repenting model nation still remains divided.
A digital divide exists in most developing countries. South Africa is no exception. Presently, less than 10% of individuals are internet users and less than 400,000 households have broadband access. The lack of broadband has severely restricted South Africa’s online population. However, if South Africa plans to become a player on the world stage, it has to build a bridge and connect their population with the rest of the world.
The development of an a new undersea telecommunications cable will be the first step in connecting South Africa. This development will allow South Africa’s broadband to grow fivefold over the next five years as South Africa gets high-speed broadband internet access. The internet population is expected to double from 4.5 million to over 9 million by 2014.
The 2010 World Cup will provide the perfect stage for brands to more than market but truly engage with South Africans. Telkom, Africa’s largest integrated communications company and a signature partner of the World Cup, has already begun positioning themselves for internet growth. They have partnered with Microsoft for over five years to create state of the art computer resource centers known as “Digital Villages”. These centers have given schools and communities the ability to harness technology in order to develop computer skills. “This project provides another opportunity that brings South Africa a step closer to bridging the digital divide,” says Minister Frazer-Moleketi.
It would be beneficial for Mahindra Satyam, a World Cup sponsor, to adopt a strategy similar to Telkom and move beyond just being a sponsor but to create a strategy that will enable it to become an engaged partner. Presently, they are setting up and managing 240 self-help ticketing terminals in South Africa to distribute nearly four million tickets. However, this isn’t enough; they should actively connect with South Africans by donating computers and access to internet through townships, Citizen Post Offices, and internet cafés. This will align with their rebranding effort as corporate partner after the scandal that has plagued this India company. It won’t remove the dark cloud that exists with their accounting dilemma, but by becoming an entrenched partner, it will allow them to leverage an event with a critical social need to bridge the divide and a template to follow in India for redemption.