Bridging the digital divide

This call to action is answered by LRMG’s new business – LRMG Digital Agency, argues Cabral, partner and managing executive: LRMG Digital Agency. LRMG Digital Agency represents the expertise answerable to the social and political problem, the call to action emerging from the ever-increasing Digital Divide and Digital Inequality. Vested in sound learning design principles and science, this agency understands how to mould information into action. The Digital Agency services the broader community of reach that would enable the most impactful answer to this call to action.

“This broader community of reach is especially important in a country like South Africa, where the divide between the first audience and the second is so great. This second audience is our direct target. Producing products and solutions that meet the very different needs of these two audiences is our response to the Digital Divide and Digital Inequality as the LRMG Digital Agency,” says Cabral.

So what does this Digital Agency do, and what needs does it cater to?

Cabral says that the Digital Agency is a response to the following trends in knowledge creation and information engagement:

  • Micro-moments of need: Micro-moments occur when people reflexively turn to a device –increasingly a smartphone – to act on a need to learn something, do something, discover something, watch something, or buy something. They are intent-rich moments when decisions are made and preferences shaped. Micro-moments can happen any time, anywhere.
  • Industry 4.0: Industry 4.0, Industrie 4.0 or the fourth industrial revolution is the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. It includes cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud computing. Industry 4.0 creates what has been called a ‘smart factory’. It is the interconnection of human/biology, machine and digital. Is Africa ready for digital transformation?
  • Enterprise disruption: This includes enterprise technology trends and 70:20:10.
  • The omnichannel approach: Seven steps to connect learner experiences. The omnichannel is a multichannel approach to sales that seeks to provide the customer with a seamless shopping experience whether the customer is shopping online from a desktop or mobile device, by telephone or in a bricks-and-mortar store.
  • The learner voice: This includes facts about how staff learn at work, both formally and informally.
  • The visual brain: The neural mechanisms of visual perception offer rich insight into how the brain handles such computationally complex situations. This looks at how the brain looks on visualisation.
  • State of mobile app developers: The mobile revolution is driving the market for mobile applications.

“In response to the IoT, we’ve realised that it’s not just about learning, but about how people access content – which is tied up in Industry 4.0 and the 4th Industrial Revolution and the Digital Divide,” argues Cabral.

“The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical devices, vehicles, buildings and other items—embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity that enable these objects to collect and exchange data. The IoT allows objects to be sensed and controlled remotely across existing network infrastructure, creating opportunities for more direct integration of the physical world into computer-based systems, and resulting in improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefit; when IoT is augmented with sensors and actuators, the technology becomes an instance of the more general class of cyber-physical systems, which also encompasses technologies such as smart grids, smart homes, intelligent transportation and smart cities. Each thing is uniquely identifiable through its embedded computing system but is able to interoperate within the existing Internet infrastructure. Experts estimate that the IoT will consist of almost 50 billion objects by 2020.” (Wikipedia)

The concept of the Digital Divide surfaced in 1995 with the disparity between those who had Internet access and those who didn’t. Internet access is now much more common, but this does little to bridge the divide: “Inequality of access is important because it is likely to reinforce inequality in opportunities for economic mobility and social participation,”(DiMaggio)*. “Technology 4.0 threatens to exponentially widen that divide for those without access, those without the ability to use the information and communication technologies they are accessing,” warns Cabral.

It is thus about so much more than access, as an important aspect of the Digital Divide is not just access to the Internet, but “socially structured variation in the ability of persons with formal access to the Internet to use it to enhance their access to valuable information resources. Among the increasing number of Internet users, how do such factors as gender, race, and socioeconomic status shape inequality in ease, effectiveness, and quality of use? Does access to and use of the Internet affect people’s life chances?” (DiMaggio). This inequality caused by the Digital Divide is known as Digital Inequality.

“As people have better devices and are able to access content across various platforms, their need to access content will increase. Over time, the way and reason we access content are evolving. How do we then position ourselves in relation to this? What does content mean and what is our role?” asks Cabral.

“We started with the idea of what does a Digital Agency mean to us as LRMG? There is a lot of confusion in the market about what a Digital Agency is or should be. Most marketing/advertising agencies have repositioned themselves as “digital” agencies because their channel for marketing now has digital elements. Whereas if you look at what digital really is, it is about the development of the digital aspect of information and its dissemination in any context, be it marketing, branding, learning, empowerment, fun, etc.” says Cabral.

“So, for us, a digital agency delivers useful, screen-based assets, products and solutions, with the emphasis on useful. There is a lot of confusion in the market about user experience: It is very gimmicky, and does it really work? Is it not actually about usability?

“When we first started in the digital area, the emphasis was on user experience. When clients ask ‘Where do I click?’, you know that it’s less about user experience than usability. Here capability is important and not misplaced science, where you have the capability of digitisation, where content, solution, process is digitised, based on intuitive design and results in something useful, something more than just buying a soda or searching for the closest Pokémon Go.

“We focus on digitising courses, upskilling programmes and people capability development initiatives in order to broaden the reach, bringing more skills development to more people. Working with publishers, we target massified digital development opportunities, by digitising and animating information in their books.

“Massifying and productising solutions allow us to become cost-effective, enabling us to move from an animation that costs R40 000, to a massified product that costs R4 000 per animation, allowing us to bring our solutions to the largest audience possible, bridging the Digital Divide and answering the call to action that the 4th Industrial Revolution demands.

“And this is really at the heart of what we want to do. It is important to understand what we as a business do. And we’ve explored the why we do what and how we do. And we do what we do to become a digital development capability benchmark, which we’ll do by reducing Digital Inequality by improving the reach and impact of content.

“Information empowers and reach disrupts,” concludes Cabral.


*From Unequal Access to Differentiated Use: A Literature Review and Agenda for Research on Digital Inequality