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Digital Citizenship and South Africa

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Digital Citizenship and South Africa


By Annemie Willemse

Recent press releases saw various countries campaigning for research and programmes to be launched on Digital Citizenship. In South Africa, Media Monitoring Africa (MMA), together with Google SA, the Film and Publications Board (FPB) and the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, recently launched Web Rangers a programme aimed to encourage young people to drive safer Internet behaviours.

But what is Digital Citizenship?

In short, Digital Citizenship may be defined as the guidelines for directing appropriate and responsible behaviour with regards to technology use. Digital Citizenship has nine overarching areas it has to address; these are discussed below.

Digital Access

Digital Access relates to electronic participation in society. Digital exclusion makes it difficult to grow as a society therefore digital access should provide guidelines to expand and support digital rights and electronic access to technology for all citizens. “South Africa is one of the most unequal societies in the world,” says William Bird, director at MMA. “The digital divide is another critical layer of inequality that, left unchallenged, will deepen inequality in new ways that will set our country’s democracy and development back even further.”

In IT Web’s online press release of 8 February Bird points out that overcoming the digital divide has a number of elements, the most critical of which is the provision of fast, cheap quality access to the Internet for all, and with that, the development of digital literacy and digital citizenship skills.


Digital Communication

The biggest change brought about by the digital revolution is the vast amount of digital communication options available for communication purposes. This allows for communication 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week, literally 365 days of a year. Everyone has the opportunity to communicate and collaborate with anyone from anywhere at any given time. Unfortunately, many users have not been taught on how to make appropriate decisions when communicating on these platforms.

It is for this reason that the Obama Foundation recently issued a call to examine the concept of digital citizenship, “we now have a situation in which everybody’s listening to people who already agree with them, people are using social media and the global reach of the internet to reinforce their own realities and to neglect a common reality that allows us to have a healthy debate” Obama stated.


Digital Literacy

Digital Literacy is the process of teaching and learning about technology and the use of technology. To date this area has been the most widely addressed in school, college, and university programmes. The main emphases in any digital literacy programme is to teach learners how to learn in a digital society, allowing for rapid adaptation of new technologies as they emerge.

Currently in South Africa various digital literacy campaigns and programmes are underway, one of the most successful to date is the Digital Literacy campaign provided by Microsoft. Through the creation of Digital Villages, Microsoft and its various NGO partners aim to broaden digital inclusion and aid global workforce development by providing technology skills through community technology centres (CTCs). To date there are 50 such centres spread over all provinces. []

Digital Etiquette

Etiquette is most commonly known as the underlying code of polite behaviour in society. Digital etiquette provides guidelines for behaviour in the digital society space, this includes behaviour with relation to hacking, downloading illegally, plagiarism, piracy as well as use of bad language and inappropriate use of video’s and other digital media.

Digital Commerce

The mainstream availability of digital commerce (i.e. the buying and selling of goods and services using the Internet and mobile networks) has become commonplace to many users. Technology users therefore need to be guided to ensure that legitimate and legal transactions occur on a daily basis.

Digital Law

Digital Law addresses the ethical use of technology in a society. It encompasses legal topics such as intellectual property, copyright law, as well the appropriate use and distribution of information on electronic platforms. Digital Law applies to anyone who uses electronic platforms for work and play.

Digital Rights & Responsibilities

As with any constitutional law guiding the rights and responsibilities of citizens in a country, digital rights and responsibilities need to guide freedom within the digital world.

Its main emphasis is to address every digital user’s right and freedom to use all types of digital technology in an acceptable and appropriate manner.

Digital Health and Wellness

Eye safety, repetitive stress syndrome and sound ergonomic practices are some of the physical issues that need to be address under digital health and wellness. Apart from the physical issues there are also psychological issues becoming more prevalent such as internet addiction, stalking and identity theft.

Digital Security

Digital Security addresses the protection of information on electronic platforms. Damage caused by a cyber-attack can severely impact a company and even a nation’s critical infrastructure. It is of utmost importance that these platforms are protected and for that reason alone the growing amount of jobs and certifications within the security space as rapidly escalated over the past 2 years.

Masterskill offers the following courses relating to Digital Citizenship:

ITC Essentials Suite
Microsoft Digital Literacy Curriculum

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