The perspective of stakeholders regarding access to ICT in rural communities of uMgungundlovu District Municipality.
Myeni, Mbali Pearl.
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Understanding stakeholders’ perspectives regarding access to information and communication technology (ICT) is a critical aspect of ICT for Development (ICT4D). The rural communities of uMgungundlovu District Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa were studied to investigate the current means of accessing information using ICT; the factors that affect access to ICT in the rural communities; the literacy level and technological skills of local communities and the stakeholders. The challenges that have the potential to undermine the implementation of ICTs were also identified. The study used a sequential mixed methods design that entailed the collection of qualitative data subsequent to the quantitative data collection to address the research questions. A non-proportional stratified sampling technique to collect data from 61 stakeholders was utilised. Self-administered questionnaires were used to collect quantitative data from 26 councillors, 5 municipal managers, 5 corporate services mangers, and 5 ICT managers, while semi-structured interviews were used to collect qualitative data from 20 ward committee members. The quantitative data was analysed using SPSS statistical software and the qualitative data was analysed with thematic content analysis. The findings of the study from the rural stakeholders’ perspectives revealed that radio was used the most to access information followed by word-of-mouth, cellular phone, newspaper, community gatherings, while TV, letter writing and internet had the lowest usage. On the other hand municipal managers recognise the need for ICT for the economic advancement of the region, which requires the adoption of suitable ICT policies and their annual review. Furthermore municipal managers understood that current information on the municipality website and access to the municipality website were important. Almost all of the Ward committee members had knowledge of Community based digital hubs and all of them wanted the Community based digital hub (CBDH) to be established in their communities. The perspective of the committee Ward members on the technological and computer literacy levels of their respective communities shows an even distribution between the community members with knowledge of CBDH and those without. The communities are not trained to use communication tools but their perception on youth training with respect to the use of communication tools were significantly different, since some of the youths have undergone some level of computer training on account of the schools they attended. The greatest challenge to the establishment of community-based digital hubs (CBDH) was lack of availability of land, followed by lack of electricity, shortage of skilled people to manage the CBDH, maintenance of the structure, difficulty of permission to build the CBDH and comunal land conflicts. Recommendations based on the findings of the study are presented, while further research should focus on the factors and challenges that influence access to ICT in rural communities in South Africa from the perspectives of rural community members.