13:30-14:00 Bridging the Digital Divide

Presenter: Prof Angela Dudley

Prof Angela Dudley

After receiving her MSc in Physics from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Angela joined the CSIR National Laser Centre (NLC) on a PhD studentship in 2008. Her PhD research realised two novel measurement techniques for optical fields. She received her PhD in June 2012 from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and subsequently commenced a Postdoctoral Fellowship within the Mathematical Optics group at the NLC. Her research has resulted in 28 peer-reviewed journal articles and 32 international conference proceedings. She has been awarded two SPIE scholarships and the 2012 CSIR Excellence Award for ‘Outstanding Performance by a PhD Student’. In 2015 she was the recipient of the South African Institute of Physics (SAIP) Silver Jubilee medal. She has been invited to spend time in overseas laboratories such as the University of Glasgow, North Carolina State University and the City College of New York. Currently, she is a senior researcher at the NLC and holds a visiting lecturer position at the University of the Witwatersrand. She is also serving her second 6-year term on the Optical Society of America’s (OSA) Membership and Education Services (MES) council.

South Africa has one of the highest inequality factors in the world, reflecting its developed and developing nature.  As such it suffers from the traditional “digital divide”, with low internet connectivity reach in rural areas, which is both economic and geographic in nature.  While overcoming the divide is challenging without infrastructure, the lack of legacy networks offers a rare green-fields opportunity to realize a future network that is unconstrained by existing paradigms.  In June 2017, a meeting was held in South Africa to develop a roadmap for the deployment of optical networks across Africa in a sustainable manner, hoping to “turn the digital divide into a digital opportunity”.

In this talk I will summarize recent proposals to bridge the digital divide and offer a South African perspective on the problem.  I will cover active research in South Africa on the topic and speculate what the network future in Africa might be, and what this would mean for social and economic development.