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  • Adam Walter

Tales from Around the World: South Africa Part 2

Listen: Humanize IT Podcast Blog Ep 116

After creating quite a stir on social media with our “Tales from Around the World: South Africa” episode, we’re back with part two to expand upon some of the stories, questions and opinions you shared with us. Also returning is our guest Richard Bauer, an engineer from Cape Town.

When we posted Part One, the comment section was filled with a frenzy of different perspectives that we didn’t have time to address in the short episode, which mostly focused on changes in IT, business and technology. Since we’ve now heard your thoughts about the state of the nation as a whole, we wanted to give you all another chance to create open conversation and re-address some of the viewpoints we may not have acknowledged in our original 20 minutes with Richard.

The General Situation in South Africa

If you’re not in South Africa right now, here’s an overarching description of the situation there, from one person’s perspective. As Richard Bluntly put it, things have gotten worse. The country is still on full lockdown after four months, and people are suffering because of it.

Jobs are being lost, resources are becoming more scarce and curfews are being enforced more strictly. Unsurprisingly as a result, there’s been an upsurge in alcohol-related hospitalizations. Because of this, alcohol sales have once again been banned. Because of that, groups of rioters, many of whom are young teens, are ransacking liquor stores in protest of the new laws. The government has also banned tobacco until the lockdown is officially over. As you can see, there’s a vicious cycle between the virus, the economy and people’s material needs and wants.

South Africa From a Business and Tech Standpoint

Although Richard is doing comparatively well, as he doesn’t smoke, rarely drinks and is fortunate enough to be employed right now, he has noted a decline in business since his first podcast appearance. He’s lost clients not because of relationships, but because of financial reasons. Although technology, like the cloud and video chatting, has allowed him to continue carrying out daily operations, the social element of his business is still missing. He can’t wait to finally be able to go to a client’s office, sit down and have a face-to-face cup of coffee.

For the most part, though, South Africa has had a harder time embracing technology than some other countries for not only cultural, but practical reasons. In fact, being able to transition to a remote work environment is a privilege in itself. Why is that?

First, many jobs that are automated in the United States and other countries are done by humans in South Africa, making work-from-home impossible for the majority. This isn’t because they don’t have the tech, but because they look at these positions as an employment opportunity that helps boost the economy. For example, you can’t pump your own gas there — someone will do it for you so they can make a living.

Richard said next-level, everyday tech probably won’t be fully embraced in South Africa for a while. When a large percentage of the population is simply trying to keep a roof over their head and survive, technology gets moved to the back burner. However, he hopes all the hard workers in his country can use this adversity as fuel to come together and find new ways to solve problems.

What Can We Learn From This?

Every country has experienced rapid change, impending uncertainty and increased struggle because of the pandemic. This virus has put all of humanity to the test. But when put into context, it’s taken a much greater societal toll on some countries than others, like the United States, and we need to be cognizant of that.

Of course, Adam said, we have our own problems — but we can still go to the grocery store, buy libations, stay out as late as we please and even go out to restaurants, bars and gyms in some states. Meanwhile, some people’s entire worlds are being flipped upside down for the long-term.

What can you do to help if you aren’t being heavily affected by the virus? For starters, supporting and sustaining local business is incredibly important right now. Tip extra. Be kind and compassionate. Also, give people a platform where they feel like their voices are being heard (like we intend to do with this podcast and blog). The more we all collaborate and express empathy, the faster we can overcome our struggles.

As for South Africa, Richard believes that despite what happens in the near future, his people are resilient. With their unbreakable strength and spirit, the citizens will push through, and the country will work together to eventually rebuild and return to a new sense of normalcy.

Stay tuned for next week’s episode: "When did technology lose focus?"

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