South Africa recently held its first ICT conference. The who’s who of the country’s Internet start-ups, government officials and business were in attendance at the week-long he Indaba in Cape Town. The talk amongst the invited guests were how best to ensure millions of South Africans get access to the Internet. In another part of Cape Town, about 30 kilometers away, a group of young women, all members of the New Women's Movement's Young Women's Chapter, were discussing the very same issue albeit under different circumstances.
However, for the young women, it was not only access that was an issue but security. In fact, this issue took center stage in the debate. For the young women, it was about how best to ensure that you do not use your mobile phone (your phone is seen as fancy if you have access to the Internet) in public. They also raised the issue of access and how expensive Internet access is, and if you do have a smart phone, you are likely to be the victim of crime. This is the reality of life for many young women in South Africa. As much, as the world is moving and everyone talks about ensuring access, the policymakers often forget the basics. Safety, security and having the means to afford Internet access remain an issue and for many poor people it remains a pipe dream.
The young women were also brainstorming ideas about how best to communicate and the issues they would like to raise and work on over the next two years. It was exciting to be part of the first meeting and getting the young women to share their dreams, aspirations and vision for the project. I feel excited and overwhelmed at the same time. Our work is cut out for us but we are all looking forward to learn and engage over the next few months and I do feel confident that the process will be magnificent.
Crystal Orderson, Cape Town, South Africa