South Africans given first opportunity to input on the development of the National Plan, but only for internet users.
On Zapreneur, I have argued that the national planning process must be made more open for the National Planning Commission to meet its goals. While it is presumptuous to indicate that the article had an influence, The Presidency announced that it will be having NPC Jam Session running for five days starting on the 28 March 2011.
The announcement reads as follows:
The NPC would like to invite all South Africans to engage in a social electronic dialogue that will stimulate a constructive Nation Building debate on values and ethics. Individuals who participate in the debate will form part of the NPC JAM Session. The details of the debate are as follows:
Social Network: Facebook
Start Date: 28th of March 2011
End Date: 1st of April 2011 (13:00)
Internet usage in South Africa
The choice of the Internet, and a social networking platform (like Facebook) is encouraging, in that it marks an embrace of social media, and an experiment on using the Internet to impact on public policy. Zapreneur is attempting the same thing, but the choice of the internet, clearly limits popular participation due to the low levels of internet access in South Africa.
Some of the statistics include that:
- According to research and advisory outfit World Wide Worx only 10,8% of South Africans have access to the Internet in 2009,
- There are over 3,7 million Facebook users in South Africa, according to Social Bakers – a site that tracks Facebook usage. It is staggering that around 7% of all South African are on Facebook, but it is important to note that it is only 7% of the population that will have access to the initial discussion on the National Plan.
While welcoming the opportunity to input, the design of the first participatory process is unsatisfactory. In any process, the first voices set the agenda. So even if the process expands to other mediums – it will be the minority of South Africans that will shape the debate.
Zapreneur as an Internet start-up can be criticised in the same manner. The point being, that the government has the resources to run a five day NPC Jam Session across the Internet, radio, TV, media and through schools, hospitals and police stations. South Africa needs open processes if the voices of marginal voices are too be amplified. The participatory processes run by the National Planning Commission must be designed to achieve this. The very first public process sadly does not deliver on that requirement.
Zapreneur will develop a proposal for consideration by the NPC on how to enhance participation in the process. Everyone is invited to input, and the site will be restructured by the 4 April 2011 to facilitate this process.