Empowerment through Digital Inclusion in South Africa (EDISA)

March 2018 to June 2022
digital media
innovation platform
digital inclusion
data literacy
data platform
artificial intelligence
University of the Western Cape (South Africa)
Research fields
Social Sciences
Technology and Engineering

Digitisation presents unique positive & negative challenges to marginalised, disadvantaged individuals, groups and communities in S-Africa. Innovative digital public and private services present opportunities for human capacity development, economic growth and social progress. However, digital exclusion, if not addressed, risks perpetuating historical divides and introducing new shapes of inequality and marginalisation. The EDISA project aims to address these issues by focusing 1) on creating deeper systemic knowledge on mechanisms of digital exclusion in South Africa; 2) on translating this knowledge into digital inclusion interventions, instruments & policy recommendations.

Within S-Africa the CoLab for eInclusion and Social Innovation, UWC, is a leading research centres on digital inclusion and digital innovation in the country. Furthermore, the department of Information Systems (IS) and Department of Computer Science (CS) continue to develop and implement technology which can reduce digital exclusion within S-African communities. iMEC-SMIT-VUB and iMEC-MICT-UGent have a tradition of research on ICTs, digital media, innovation and digital inclusion.

EDISA aims to 1) extend the network with new people within UWC; 2) extend the network with a new Belgian Partner iMEC-MICT-UGent; 3) bring the collaboration within the network to a higher level; 4) validate the research in a broader network. iMEC-MICT-UGent brings in methodological and practical knowledge in quantitative surveys and panel research. The ambition & mandate of the CoLab is to move towards quantitative survey and/or panel research within the Western Cape Province &S- Africa. The longer-term aim of the network is: 1) to intensify the research between the partners; 2) to develop an interdisciplinary Masters program on Digital Media and Innovation at UWC; 3) to intensify student and staff exchange. EDISA further builds on expertise and capacity developed in the Belspo projects.

R&D cooperation
The partners will jointly work on existing and new projects. Key drivers of the project constitute the acting board of the network and will involve researchers when needed. Identified priority projects are:
- Overview of the digital inclusion landscape in South Africa
- Digital skills and digital awareness assessment – instrument and technology development
- Development and refinement of a digital inclusion intervention framework

The different contexts in Belgium and S- Africa make it interesting to reflect on these differences on similar topics and to contributes to robust theoretical reflections.
The expected results are academic, educational, and strategic. Academically, a rise in joint research is aimed for, resulting in joint publications between academic partnering units/departments. CoLab has a strong tradition in translating research into workshops involving government, civil society and private industry. During high-level workshops research results will be disseminated at regional and national level. Interactions from the workshop and data findings will be used to inform the design & develop digital inclusion technology platforms, creating opportunities for further student research projects. Workshops in Belgium involving researchers, donors, NGOs and civil society will disseminate the results towards a Belgian/European audience. At the educational level the ambition is to establish an interdisciplinary high-level MA program on Digital Media & Innovation at UWC. The aim is to integrate the Masters in S-Africa with MA programmes at VUB & UGent. At the strategic level the CoLab becomes a natural partner for iMEC-SMIT-VUB and iMEC-SMIT-UGent for grants and

The research centers invest in methodological expertise & innovation. Exchange of views enhances methodological strength. The ambition is to take the collaboration beyond the funding period e.g. via research projects involving UWV in Belgian/European tenders. The 3 universities are in the process of looking into the possibility of establishing joint educational programs that may beyond EDISA supports collaboration and sustainability in general.