May 12, 2022

How digital innovation tackles socio-economic challenges

Digital innovation is driving social and economic changes in South Africa and throughout the rest of the continent. Economic revival and rapid technological change go hand-in-hand, with emerging connectivity technologies helping South Africa tackle its socio-economic challenges.

With good digital infrastructure in urban areas and the roll-out of fibre infrastructure across the country, South Africans at every socio-economic strata can capitalise on digital capacities to create new value. For industries, both in the public and private sector, South Africa’s digital evolution is stimulating economic growth and social upliftment.

Digital innovation and social change in Africa

According to the World Bank, “digital technologies are unlocking new pathways for rapid economic growth, innovation, job creation and access to services in Africa.” Studies have shown that the availability of the internet leads to better jobs for low income, lower-skilled people. Access to information technologies (IT) increase labour force participation because of things like personalised employment advice is personalised and improved access to resources.

Throughout Africa, farmers with better access to IT have been able to increase crop yields and their market reach. Digital innovation enables economic transformation and job creation. Higher levels of digital access mean that poverty is reduced over time. In South Africa, where poverty stats are extremely high, closing the digital divide has a direct impact on reducing inequality.

South Africa’s digital economy

Since 2019, the South African government has placed a lot more importance on fostering technological innovations. Noting that “access to broadband and connectivity is a lever to socio-economic inclusion and an absolute necessity,” Cyril Ramaphosa is the first South African president to emphasise digitisation and the need to develop systems to improve efficiency and resource management across various sectors.

Compared to the rest of the continent, South Africa has a strong institutional environment and digital infrastructure. With key players like SEACOM Business, infrastructure and enterprise-grade connectivity is making local businesses internationally competitive.

According to a Harvard Business Review, there is a strong correlation between economic growth and the emergence of digital platforms. With a young population clamouring for new technologies and internet access, Africa is the next market that will experience big growth. As a regional leader in new technologies, South Africa is at the very edge of innovation and a stronghold for emerging digital citizens.

Although digitisation does disrupt business models, research suggests that overall it creates more jobs that it destroys. Socio-economic success requires a dynamic response in which the workforce is adaptable and willing to upskill. The rise in technology-related jobs means that unless South Africans are ready to meet the demands of a digitised economy, there will be a major skills shortfall in the next few years.

The impact of digital innovation on socio-economic challenges

With the government and private sector driving digital transformation, South Africans are able to leverage information and communication technologies (ICT) to bring about social change. One of the main challenges for South Africans is access to public services, including healthcare, education and transport. With improved digitisation, it is likely that public service access will also improve.

The internet is the great equaliser, giving people opportunities that transcend national borders. Free online learning tools, social media platforms and access to international markets means that South Africans are better equipped to generate income and find employment. Likewise for business, digital innovation has given South African enterprises the competitive edge it needs to be a global player.

Digitisation supports businesses

Insights-driven innovation helps to increase competitiveness and is a key driver of economic growth. Global digital trends show that big data, coupled with automation and cloud computing, improve efficiency and allow for market-driven value creation. These days, digitisation and innovation are highly interlinked.

Digitisation offers improved workflow efficiency, enhanced customer experience and accelerated time-to-market (TTM) with new product and service offerings. Companies that adopt a digital business model are better able to absorb market shocks, using technological advances to reimagine workflows and adapt to changing conditions. The convergence of new technologies, including automation, data-analytics and machine learning, helps to lower operational costs and improve the overall health of the economy.

Innovative digital opportunities for South Africa's workforce

At each segment of the workforce, digitisation offers new opportunities. With more access to highly-skilled digital jobs, such as online freelancing, South Africans can now look further afield for remote positions with attractive remuneration. Many medium-skilled workers have turned to ride-sharing apps, like Uber, as a source of employment. The boom in e-commerce has created employment for lower-skilled South Africans, particularly in terms of delivery and logistics-based jobs.

A positive effect of the last couple of years has been rapidly improving digital literacy among South Africans.The shift to online education meant that both students and teachers had to up their ICT skills and institutions had to provide the necessary digital infrastructure to support this. Looking ahead, school-leavers are likely to have much needed digital skills necessary for securing future employment.

Large enterprises welcome digital innovation

At the top of the digital food chain we find large enterprises with new technologies acting as a catalyst for innovation. Responding to economic pressures, such as the need to stabilise supply chains, digital innovation has been a key driver for change.

Catering for dispersed workforces, large corporations are using cloud-based technologies, such as software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN), to improve network performance and security. Cloud-based virtual private networks (VPNs) ensure that workers can securely access business networks from any location.

Data storage and project management have been revolutionised by the cloud, making remote collaboration more effective and secure. With these digital developments, large businesses become more stable, which has a ripple effect for the overall socio-economic health of the nation.

Reaching South Africa’s digital potential

Digital innovation is a dynamic concept that changes as new technologies emerge. Staying ahead in the global digital ecosystem requires an innovative approach which embraces new technologies.

South Africa is well on the road to digital success and with continued roll-out of fibre infrastructure, this is only set to grow. From telecomms to advanced robotics, the South African economy had become more future-proof.

At SEACOM, we have a host of ICT solutions for the public and private sector. If digital entrepreneurs, SMEs and large enterprises take advantage of these emerging technologies, South Africa will be able to tackle its most serious socio-economic challenges. For more information or to get a quote for our various ICT services, email us at or leave us a message.


SEACOM owns Africa’s most extensive network of information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure, including subsea cables and secure internet connections. We offer a diverse range of flexible, scalable and high-quality solutions for businesses that meet world-class standards for connectivity.

SEACOM is privately owned and operated, making it agile and adaptable to the needs of the customer. This makes us the preferred ICT and internet connectivity partner for African businesses and peripheral service providers. We can guarantee high-speed, low-latency and secure internet connections to corporates and small enterprises.

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