Rapelang Rabane believes technology is the answer to SA’s socio-economic issues
Only once everyone is plugged into 4G technology will South Africa be able to push mobile applications and solutions that address critical socio-economic problems says computer scientist and ed-tech entrepreneur Rapelang Rabana. “Key to building a more inclusive economy is pervasive internet access and affordable devices to ensure wider accessibility of information and opportunities. Without this, South Africa cannot begin to participate in the digital economy through platforms like SweepSouth or Uber, and access new economic opportunities as ‘micro-entrepreneurs. Without this, the ordinary South African does not have the permission to play the 4IR (fourth industrial revolution) and inequality is exacerbated,” says Rabana.
Born in Gaborone, Botswana, Rabana completed her high school at Roedean in Johannesburg, afterwards enrolling at UCT for a Business Science degree, which he got with honours specializing in computer science in 2005. In 2006 she was among a group of UCT graduates who created Yeigo, which developed some of the world’s earliest mobile VoIP applications. In 2008, the Swiss headquartered Telfree group, a pioneering next-generation telecoms operator, acquired a majority stake in Yeigo, enabling the group to provide the full range of telecommunications services as a fully licenses operator in South Africa. It was this formative entrepreneurial experience that affirmed Rabana’s belief that mobile and internet technology will play a pivotal role in addressing major socio-economic issues in Africa. Passionate about upskilling Africa’s next generation, in 2013 Rabana founded Rekindle Learning, which describes itself as a “learning and development company that provides mobile and computer learning solutions that enable knowledge mastery and measurement in corporate and schooling environments”.
Rabana says that on her career journey, she has learned a lot about herself and what works for her. “Our society teaches us to spend a lot of time looking ‘out there’ for success, but the ability to drive yourself to your full potential starts internally with personal mastery. I was able to make the decisions I have made because I am very clear on what I can and cannot tolerate, what my non-negotiables are, and what I value,” she says. Speaking about the fourth industrial revolution, Rabana says that a key hurdle for SA is to ensure a co-ordinated response by the government and the business sector in making investments, and the academic sector in producing the skills and capabilities required. “There needs to be a tech startup ecosystem that can support the growth of innovative local solutions through more open and transparent channels to market and access to clients, as well as funding to scale,” she says, adding that the understanding of the fourth industrial revolution and its assets remains poor. The critical problems that technology should address, she says, is literacy and numeracy (through autonomous learning applications), skills development (artificial intelligence and virtual reality can provide experiential learning experiences), and the redistribution of economic opportunity (aggregated platforms connecting companies to procurement opportunities).