The Digital Divide – implications for equity in higher education in South Africa

CDE SEMINAR: The Digital Divide – implications for equity in higher education in South Africa and in particular the University of South Africa (UNISA) the national open and distance learning university

Wednesday 14 September 2011


“High costs and limited connectivity restrict the scope for exploiting the full potential of ICT education…… the global digital divide and the global education divide will become self reinforcing …….with children denied a chance to gain the skills of information and communication technologies that are vital for future employment and future growth”.

“Young people of today will not be taught the same things or in the same way as previous generations. Mobile, on-line and distance learning are all creating greater access to resources than ever before”. Former UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, 2011)

We welcomed Dr Jeanette Botha (University of South Africa) to the Centre to conduct a presentation and a discussion on issues around the ‘digital divide’ within South Africa (something likely to be an issue in other countries around the world).   The main thrust of the talk was: “Who are we teaching?” Dr Botha alluded to the issue of technology driving education vs education driving technology and highlighted numerous concerns of developing world ODL practitioners and students, contextualizing ODEL in South Africa in the current socio-economic framework, with reference to Unisa. The argument was made for the pragmatic consideration of the acquisition and use of appropriate technologies in line with these “real world” considerations.


Audio podcast

Listen or download the audio from the session via our iTunesU accout:


Presentation slides


About the presenter

Jeanette is currently the Director in the Office of the Principal at the University of South Africa (Unisa).

For the past 13 years she has worked with top management (for 4 consecutive Vice-Chancellors).  She was intimately involved in the planning and implementation of the merger between Unisa, Technikon SA (TSA) and the incorporation of Vista University Distance Education Centre (VUDEC), as has subsequently served as a member of the institutional planning team (as a the representative in the Principal’s office). She also researches and drafts speeches, reports and papers for the Principal, Chair of Council and Chancellor on a wide variety of topics, but more particularly around ODL and higher education policy, higher education trends, and other higher education initiatives in which Unisa is involved.   In her communication and liaison function she provides a central connection point for the institution and the Principal and in that context, and drawing on her reading of higher education trends locally, nationally and globally, she fulfils an advisory function in the Principal’s Office.

Her current research interest is Unisa’s students and their profile because she believes that an in-depth knowledge of that profile (including socio-economic status and capacities) is fundamental to the selection/development of appropriate systemic technologies, courseware development, teaching and learning – and most importantly for ODL students – learner support.  This research is extended to international students, student mobility patterns and the changing dynamics around the North/South divide.

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