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Tech Failures in Rural South Africa

South Africa: Why Have All the Rural Tech Projects Failed?

15 March 2016 – A new resource has been added to the PM World library related to Project Failures.  The resource is titled “Tech Failures – Rural South Africa”.

160315 - Mitchell - Tech Failures IMAGELocated in Soweto, South Africa, Microsoft began a computer literacy project on the 9th March 1997, with a visit from Bill Gates.  This was South Africa’s first free-access “digital village,” an initiative orchestrated by Microsoft in conjunction with local computer companies and US development organisation, Africare. The idea was that by providing a $100,000 computer package, housed in the Chiawelo Community Center, it would give the township’s poor residents a link to the information age.

As part of the grand opening, Gates observed a class from the local Elsie Ngidi primary school playing with computers for the first time, before telling a crowd of 200: “Soweto is a milestone. There are major decisions ahead about whether technology will leave the developing world behind. This is to close the gap.”

Today there is little evidence of the “digital villages” across South Africa. “[They] worked well for a while but collapsed as soon as the sponsors stopped funding the activities – the community had failed to make the use of technology self-sustaining.” Adrian Schofield, Vice Chairman, Africa ICT Alliance tells me: “What should have been a model for others to follow became a failure. This is a common outcome, where there is no long-term follow through.”

To access this new resource, go to, click on “Failed Projects”, scroll down to South Africa and click on “Tech Failures – Rural South Africa”. Must be a registered member to access.

Posted by: Gary Mitchell