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Presidencies and iPads

Posted by: GeraldineKent


I just finished reading this article  on Mashable and some interesting ideas came to mind.

“While the Internet is no longer a “Wild West,” people in power are still trying to figure out how best to approach online communities and their social tools. There may not be any clear answers, but social is certainly not going to go away.

There are nearly infinite ways that governments are using social media. Help us add to the conversation by sharing your own insights in the comments below. How have you seen governments, large and small, use social media? What could be done better?”


My first answer was, “No, I haven’t seen governments, of any size, use social media, in any way that benefits their citizens.” And I think that the end result of any government enjoying the luxuries of iPads, smartphones social networking, should benefit the people of their country, who may not be able to afford any of those luxuries. In South Africa, we do not have stable, affordable, widespread bandwidth. If you want to enjoy access to the internet, you have to be able to afford an ADSL line, a broadband connection, a wireless subscription. And even with those services, reliability is not guaranteed because of a lack of coverage across the country.

Bearing all of that in mind, I struggle to understand how our government thought it was more important to get President Jacob Zuma an iPad2, rather than spending time strategising on more serious issues. The “President Hotline”, a telephonic customer care-like system, offering citizens a chance to reach the government and official ministers directly, was a good idea because so many South Africans can still afford to make phone calls from one landline phone to another. But it appears that this option has fallen to the whey side     as social media, mobile networking and smartphones force their way to the forefront. I can't deny in any way, that social networking is necessary in today’s social system. But what help is an iPad to our president if so many of our citizens can barely afford a Telkom phone line, never mind the ADSL subscription. In an ideal world I truly believe that the social media system could offer so much in terms of education. And with education comes the promise of hope for larger social issues, like sustainability and development, job creation, open communication across spatial-temporal boundaries and so much more.

If I had the chance, I would challenge President Zuma: for every hour he enjoys tweeting from his iPad, he should guarantee 50 computers, with ADSL or Broadband internet, to a school or community in a rural township area of South Africa. Furthermore, for every R100 he spends downloading apps for his iPad, he should provide seminars to those communities or schools, educating them on how to use their computers and the internet.

The wider the range of people online, inside the virtual communities, the richer the collective knowledge of our generation. And this collective knowledge could be what we need to succeed with ‘green’ initiatives, aimed at developing the third world, making basic lifestyles more sustainable. Basically, all these things we call ‘social issues’ are linked to a lack of education, a lack of resources, an unequal spectrum of livelihoods. IF we were to gradually fix each of these links, the rest of the cycle consequently improves. If we really want to be the generation that curbs global warming, that feeds the poor, that educates the less fortunate, that prevents the tiger’s extinction, then we need to fight for more equal opportunities in society. Something as small, lightweight and compact as an iPad 2 really can have detrimental effects on unstable societies like South Africa, Egypt, the Middle East and South America.

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