GRANT New project uncovers digital upheavals in South Africa

The University of Copenhagen features the DigiSAt project on the website with a news story entitled New project uncovers digital upheavals in South Africa: With support from the Independent Research Fund Denmark, a new project researches the entry of global tech giants in South Africa, and how digital technologies at the same time create new opportunities for the South African society, challenge the country’s energy supply, and transform life in poor townships.

Tech giants such as Amazon and Facebook have arrived in South Africa and both companies are working on major investments in digital infrastructure. The project will unveil some of the regional and national conflicts following their arrival. Digitalisation creates challenges concerning the companies’ use of personal data, whilst the energy-intensive technologies put pressure on the local energy supply. Regular blackouts are a part of everyday life in South Africa.

In a situation where being connected is crucial for one’s opportunities, concerns about how to afford mobile data is far more critical than any abstract concerns related to how one’s data is collected and used. Other concerns are more pressing. Scheduled blackouts in the townships force residents to develop strategies for how to go without electricity supply and still make food, light and not least how to charge their mobile phones. Nonetheless, the discussion about the tech giants and the energy consumption of digital technologies rarely come up in the same conversation as the discussion of everyday challenges among people in the townships

- Associate Professor Karen Waltorp, who is leading the project.

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