Bridging the digital divide in Mokopane

From CanPRO.

Digital trainers in Mokopane.

Mining company, Ivanplats, is bridging the digital divide by activating its communities to participate in the New Economy.

The "New Economy" is characterised by enhanced competitive advantage and the driving of economic growth by those companies that are embracing Information and Communication Technology (ICT). The New Economy transforms how work is performed and those who perform it. In the New Economy, ICT brings the opportunity to enable not only economic growth but also social upliftment by bringing digital services to those communities that previously were not afforded access. Responsible companies seek to promote digital inclusivity by helping communities access ICT with confidence and competence and thus bridge the digital divide.

Ivanplats is a mining company and part of the Ivanhoe Mining Group delivering the Platreef PGE, gold, nickel, and copper project on the Northern Limb of the Bushveld Complex in Mokopane, Limpopo. With its value statement being 'Building futures for our stakeholders today in Southern Africa's storied mineral fields', Ivanhoe is committed to engaging and empowering its stakeholders, which include the communities surrounding their operations and from where they draw much of their workforce.

Digitally activating a mining community as part of a Social and Labour Plan

Ivanplats has taken a bold step toward bridging the digital divide for its mining community, by obtaining approval from the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) for the development and implementation of a multi-faceted "Youth Digital Communication Project" in Mokopane Municipality, as part of its Social and Labour Plan. The aim of this project is to digitally activate the external mining communities, local businesses, youth enterprises as well as their internal workforce to facilitate meaningful social and economic participation with one another, thus contributing to the growth of the area and improving quality of life for all.

Ivanplats appointed a provider of digital community activation solutions, CanPro, to develop and implement the project. Ivanplats had noticed the work that CanPro produced for the City of Johannesburg's Digital Ambassadors programme- which saw over 500,000 Jozi residents become digitally activated.

For Ivanplats, digitally activating its internal and external mining communities in Mokopane will ensure:

  • A common platform from which these communities can communicate and collaborate
  • Democratised information flow by providing news, opportunities and alerts to all members of their internal and external communities
  • Increased access to Ivanplats opportunities e.g. jobs, procurement and development
  • Promotion of local businesses via free listings
  • Enabling free access to e-learning, external jobs sites, online banking and government services.
  • Developed youth enterprises to provide digital services in the area.
  • A platform from which to view real time data for monitoring and reporting purposes e.g. mine community baseline information
  • Establishment of a programme with the potential to enable collaboration with other companies operating in the same area to maximum socio- economic developmental impact

CanPro's six stages of activating communities digitally

CanPro responded by developing and implementing digital activation projects in six stages, detailed below:

Stage 1- Scope

Define the programme outcomes, usually in phases:

Ivanplats sought to develop and contract 17 youth enterprises to activate 10,000 residents at eight WiFi hotspots (phase 1), to connect to free WiFi and utilise the online services of the zero-rated community portal.

Stage 2- Infrastructure

Install WiFi infrastructure at appropriately identified spaces including:

  • Office buildings
  • Work sites
  • Traditional council offices
  • Community centres
  • Schools
  • Clinics
  • Taxi ranks
  • Libraries
  • Parks or municipal offices.

Ivanplats identified hotspot locations for phase 1 in collaboration with its stakeholders and appointed a local service provider to install, maintain and provide Internet access, named MaruAMokfreeWiFi.

Stage 3- Software

Develop an online community portal, creating a virtual environment to resourcefully attract internal and external communities into the digital universe with its range of applications.

Ivanplats, in collaboration with its stakeholders, agreed on six online services to be developed by CanPro for their zero-rate community portal named Maru A Mokopane (Clouds of Mokopane).

Stage 4- Knowhow/enterprise development

Activate the WiFi and community portal via digital enterprises.

Merely providing technological tools (such as hardware and software) does not guarantee successful implementation towards objectives. Successful adoption of software and hardware is achieved when people have both the access and the ability to use tools and codes competently and confidently.

A crucial element of the activation of both the WiFi and community portal is, therefore, the development and contracting of local digital youth enterprises to train external and internal communities on how to connect to the free WiFi, as well as utilise the services available on the zero-rated community portal.

Ivanplats contracted, trained, equipped and continue to offer online monitoring and mentoring to 17 digital trainers. Each digital trainer has the opportunity to train 588 residents over a 16-week period via the online WorkPro system, which validates their work, invoices the mine for their services as well as enables real time reporting.

Feedback from these enterprises has been very encouraging. Digital Trainer, Fuzzy Kekana says, 'I managed to train 11 residents today and didn't even go to lunch. Really, I love this opportunity with all my heart. I wish to provide these services to many other companies after this contract.'

Stage 5- Monitor progress and develop further

Just six weeks into the programme, over 3 000 residents from 23 communities in Mokopane have been digitally activated through the 17 youth enterprises. Most of the community portal users are unemployed so it makes sense that the most popular online services to date have been "opportunities" and "local businesses".

What do the community members have to say?

Liesel Kirsten of CanPro.

The initiative and investment is clearly hitting its mark.

Mogalakwena Municipality Acting Mayor, Cllr Pheladi Olifant says, 'The internet connection Ivanplats will be providing [is] an essential resource to our villages, that in today's modern economy none of us can afford to live without. This launch of free public WiFi affirms our commitment as government to the National Development Plan's vision of a robust information society and knowledge economy that is both inclusive and prosperous.'

Mokopane Traditional Chief, Kgoshi LV Kekana added: 'Today we celebrate the fact that our young people can be part of the digital world. I am happy that young people in my communities now have access to information through the internet that can help them access important sources for their studies, search for jobs, bursaries and other opportunities. Knowledge is power and through the Maru a Mokopane portal my people are empowered.'

Resident, Solomon Kekana had the final word, 'This is a great platform for us as a community and youth in particular to be connected to Ivanplats mining company and the world as whole ...we thank you.'

Join the digital revolution!

Companies wanting to digify their communities or collaborate on existing projects are invited to contact Liesel Kirsten: Liesel@canpro.co.za or 084 590 4949

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