OPINION: The goal is to use Kayamandi township as an innovation lab for townships and rural areas on the African continent. Over time, the smart township model will be replicated in other townships, writes Wesley Diphoko.
In Stellenbosch, there’s a township, Kayamandi, as you enter the famous town from the N1.
You will never see pictures of this township when you look at beautiful pictures of the town that show beautiful vineyards and white Dutch-style architecture buildings.
It also never features in the tech story of the town that has birthed some of the greatest technologies ever to come out of South Africa and the African continent.
Most young people, if not all young people from this township, hardly ever attend the University of Stellenbosch, which is a walking distance from where they live.
This is about to change as the township is gearing itself to become the first Smart Township in the world.
From October 2022, the township will embark on a process of addressing its business, health, education, transport, housing and employment challenges through technology.
Kayamandi will have its own digital platform, which will serve as the catalyst for its digital vision.
As part of its first tasks, the smart township will strive to equip all young people from Kayamandi with technology skills.
In the same way that society ensures that every young person is able to read and write, every young person from Kayamandi will be given an opportunity to acquire digital skills necessary for the 4th Industrial Revolution.
These will not be just skills to type on a computer and learn about social media. It will be hardcore skills that will be required by most technology companies that are based in Stellenbosch and across the world currently and into the future.
These skilled young people will be instrumental in using technology to solve some of the toughest challenges in Kayamandi. These will include education, health and even local government engagement.
Some young people from Kayamandi and other similar townships could not access education during Covid-19 hard lockdowns.
On the other hand, young people who attend schools in neighbouring schools could still access education.
A Smart Kayamandi township will enable young people from this community to access the best education available in the world through a digitally enabled hybrid model.
In terms of health, it’s not a secret that the broader community of Stellenbosch has access to world class private healthcare via the locally based Medi-Clinic.
A smart township version of Kayamandi will have access to tech enabled health solutions that will monitor the state of health of all its residents.
In addition to this, health tech solutions will be integrated into the community to address health challenges that are confronting the community.
When it comes to local government engagement it’s a well known fact that township residents struggle to communicate their concerns with the Stellenbosch municipality which leads to frequent protests and other social unrest related issues.
The smart township version of Kayamandi will have a resident engagement feature which will connect residents with the local government.
It will be a platform that will enable residents to inform local government about challenges and be kept informed about the progress being made to address them. These are just some of the solutions that will be made possible in the smart township.
The smart township version of Kayamandi will only be possible if there’s collaboration with the local tech community in Stellenbosch. It will be an opportunity to build a model township that is powered by technology. Although Kayamandi township will be the first it will not be the last.
The goal is to use Kayamandi township as an innovation lab for townships and rural areas of the African continent. Over time the smart township model will be replicated in other townships to address similar challenges experienced in similar environments.
At this point in time technology and innovation partners, professionals and organisations are invited to participate in this process to test and implement their own technology solutions under the Smart Township banner in Kayamandi. This will also be an opportunity for technology entities to assess what it would mean to deploy their tech solution in townships.
As part of this process, tech start-ups by township based entrepreneurs will receive more attention to be given an opportunity to implement and scale their products and solutions.
On the 1st October an online environment with details will be launched. For now interested ones can follow the #SmartTownship hashtag on Twitter to receive updates about the initiative.
* Wesley Diphoko is the Editor-In-Chief of Fast Company (SA) magazine. You can follow him on Twitter via @WesleyDiphoko
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL or Independent Media.