Transcript of an Evotel Podcast episode
Reading time: 11 minutes
- How a fibre infrastructure could address poverty and job creation.
- Root of poverty is in a lack of education.
- Fibre allows one to access skills and education.
- The ripple effect of access to fibre helps disadvantaged communities.
Jon: Welcome to another Evotel Podcast. I’m Jon Gericke, joined by Bradley Bekker, who is going to tell us everything about how apparently fibre can alleviate poverty through access to information. Bradley Bekker is Evotel’s head of brand. Bradley, good chatting with you again. Thanks for joining us.
Bradley: How’s it, Jon? Yeah, it’s been a while.
Jon: We’ve spoken about this a few times on this podcast about how fibre helps people be better educated, and that access to information is so important these days. What’s the latest on that?
Bradley: Speaking into how the entire world has kind of changed and evolved with hybrid working and working from home and the reliance on having connectivity and stable connectivity opens so many more opportunities. There are jobs that you can apply for that you wouldn’t have been able to apply for because they’re on the other side of the world. So, yeah, having this connectivity at your fingertips just takes some of that pressure and stress off of you about what’s next, what can I do with my life? How do I pivot and do something for myself?
All of these things are reliant on your connectivity to be able to communicate with suppliers and people and colleagues and industry experts and research and stuff like that. And that goes even for school, being able to access this information. Where you are getting to a point where you don’t necessarily need to go to university, etc., to upskill yourself? There’s all this information at your fingertips, you just need the tools to be able to access it.
Jon: I’d give a silly example where I needed to change the light bulb in my car, which normally I would go and buy a light bulb, I’d take it to a shop, and they would charge me however many hundreds of rands to be able to do that. A couple of YouTube videos and it was difficult, but I managed to do it myself, which is great. It made me feel good inside, but also, I might be taking some money away from somebody, but I saved money myself, which I can then spend in the community.
Bradley: Exactly. We want people to start viewing connectivity as a utility and it is a requirement to, well not a requirement it is a necessity to be able to live a less stressful life, where you’re not having to worry about how I access information and how do I make my life easier.
Watching a YouTube video on how to do something makes your overall life easier in the long term and saves you money at the same time. I think people don’t really do it to save money. People want to be self-efficient and be able to do things themselves. You don’t always have the luxury of fixing something if it’s a Sunday evening.
They might not be able to have someone to come help them and being able to access the internet to research something or watch a YouTube video while they’re fixing something is a necessity nowadays.
Jon: I was just thinking, if I was entrepreneurial, then I could watch enough YouTube videos, and eventually I can become a car light bulb changer in my community and charge people to be able to do that.
Bradley: No, 100% that has a ripple effect on communities because now you’re creating opportunity for entrepreneurship, for jobs and skill development and things that people didn’t maybe think that they would develop skills in. So yeah, there’s always opportunity and connectivity just allow you to unlock those opportunities a little bit easier and with less stress.
Jon: Less stress is always a good thing. I want to talk about getting the information to the people. We’ve got great cell phone signals in the cities. We’re in Johannesburg at the moment, 4G outside, but if you go half an hour out, suddenly you’re trying to pick up cell phone signals.
There are fibre network operators, Evotel, out there, but you guys have made a point of going out to the rural areas, to smaller towns. Why is that?
Bradley: They’ve been neglected for quite some time. There have been connectivity solutions there, but again, not stable and reliable connectivity in order for them to actually make a difference in their life. And I think that’s where fibre comes in.
Yes, it’s connectivity. It’s the latest form of connectivity and it’s the best form of connectivity, but it’s just made people’s lives easier. So going to these secondary cities where they don’t have the luxury of all this information at their fingertips, accessing that world now is possible. And what we’re seeing is these communities are now starting to thrive and grow amongst themselves and there are new opportunities popping up everywhere.
We actually get people reaching out to us saying, “I’ve started a business. I’d love for you guys to get involved.” And “I actually started this business because I’m now able to run my business from home.” It was things that they possibly couldn’t have done five years ago because they needed stable connectivity. So, they needed to go work from an office or a corporate place where there were none of those issues.
Now people are actually able to start their own little thing from home. And in these secondary cities, most of the time, that’s what keeps the lights on and food on the table for some people. So being able to create that opportunity where they can create a life that they can sustain themselves by just having the necessary tools is what the objective is.
Jon: It reminds me, and it’s a little bit of a history lesson here, in England where they built the railway lines, people were based in London and then they built the railway lines and then people realized, “Well, I don’t have to live in London. I can go live half an hour or an hour away on the train.” And new cities sprung up along the railway line. So, finding the same thing with your fibre, that now suddenly you don’t have to live in Johannesburg anymore. You can go live out in Krugersdorp and have your offices out there. There’s no reason for you to have to be in Santon anymore. So, you’re spreading it out and that helps the community in that area.
Bradley: Businesses start popping up and that creates jobs and that creates opportunity and communities are happy because there’s wealth and there’s money being invested back into the community-by-community members. And I know it seems strange that you think the internet would actually make this difference, but it does.
It unlocks opportunities, like I said, that people never first saw. And again, most of the big entrepreneurs that are actually starting to pop up are from these secondary cities, from these lower affluent areas. That’s where the next entrepreneurs or the next big superstar…
Jon: Because the big boys are in the city already.
Bradley: Exactly. They are already established.
Jon: You need to get the young guys, the different brains out there.
Bradley: Exactly. That’s the beauty of it. Now we’re starting to just bring different cultures and ways of life together in the form of just connectivity. I think the most exciting part is that something that seems so small can make such a big impact by just actually bringing communities together through a digital space.
Jon: You forget that the original idea of the Internet was for people to be able to talk to each other. And now if I’m in the middle of nowhere and I’ve got a fibre connection, I can have a Zoom call with Elon Musk, or an Elon Musk-type person and they don’t care where I am. I don’t care where you are, but we’re having that conversation and learning something.
Bradley: Yeah, and we’re transferring skills. People in, for example, Welkom, there’s a specific skill set that they have that we people in Johannesburg don’t have and vice versa. So, imagine being able to connect to people around South Africa and around the world where you’re able to develop certain skills.
Again, you would have never developed if you didn’t have that connectivity. So yeah, there’s skills being transferred within communities, there are ideas, if we create this culture within South Africa of upliftment and uplifting communities together, we’ll live in a beautiful South Africa, and we’ve got a lot of opportunities. It just starts with access to information.
Jon: I want to bring up another example of how telecommuting is a thing now. So, I recently went on holiday. Eventually, I would give up my job and not get paid because when you do podcast hosting if you don’t host, you don’t get paid. So, I was lucky enough to be able to go on holiday, but the place I went to have a fibre connection so I could carry on doing my job and get paid. So that’s, it’s not just the people there. Obviously, I might be able to spend more time at the hotel now instead of just one day, I can spend two or three days. So that’s great for the community, but also great for me as well.
Bradley: Definitely. It’s, a little stressless life. I don’t know if that’s a word, but stressless, stressless life.
Jon: We’re going to trademark it.
Bradley: There we go. Stressless life. Just because you don’t have one, it’s one less thing for you to worry about. You know, we are worrying about load shedding and worrying about fuel costs and groceries, being able to not stress about your internet connectivity and knowing that wherever you travel around the world, you’re able to still be connected to your peers, your family, friends, et cetera.
Jon: Without having to worry about whether you can buy data and whether there is going to be a signal there. You know, I’ve got it. Fibre Wi-Fi, let’s make it work.
Bradley: I can still function. I can still make money. I can still connect with people that I need to connect with. I can still continue elevating myself in terms of skills no matter where I am.
Jon: So, the bottom line is fibre, investing in fibre, which is what you do, is investing in the country.
Bradley: 100 percent. That’s why we’ve encouraged, and I think the industry is going that way. It’s being viewed as a utility because, we are bettering South Africa. And again, it sounds so weird saying that connectivity is changing South Africa, but it’s not. It’s just allowing, again, communities to connect that were never connected in the past.
So definitely any FNO (Fibre Network Operators) like us that’s investing in a fibre network rollout is 100 percent investing back into the better of South Africa as well as the communities, because, you know, connectivity is just the first layer. There’s so much that is going to come. You know, AI, smart city, smart metering, all of these things do not happen if there’s no connectivity. So, definitely giving back and contributing back to South Africa because we know that there’s a need for it. Like we need to catch up.
Jon: We have the government talking about the fourth industrial revolution, but a lot of that is always connected to the Internet, these little gadgets that are always connected to the Internet. If there’s no Internet for them to connect to, there’s no point. So, you are creating these bubbles of Internet around the country where now things can be connected and that’s just going to change the world.
Bradley: I think that’s why, the municipalities even, are able to then start managing their communities that they represent as a municipality a lot better because they have access to all the information, they need to be able to manage communities effectively. Things like smart metering. Imagine not having to send a single person out ever again to go check whether a meter is working as it should. You should be able to pick that up from the back office. You should be able to see that on the back of the screen. And again, connectivity is what creates that opportunity.
So, I think over time, as we see the connectivity industry mature, I think the next thing will start popping up, which is how do we now take that connectivity and turn it into a smart city? And the municipalities will definitely benefit from that, which again, South Africa benefits from it. Cheaper rates and taxes possibly because now we can manage things more effectively, which means costs come down. So, there’s definitely a positive domino effect. But it starts with connectivity and that’s the beauty of it.
Read the thought leadership article by Bradley Bekker on this topic: https://evotel.co.za/2023/07/27/alleviate-poverty-through-access-to-information/
Note: The Evotel Podcast is produced by Pint Size Media and this episode is hosted by SAfm presenter, Jon Gericke.