In South Africa University #FeesMustFall

This is a letter written by my Computer Science lecturer, Craig Reynolds. He was an academic for most of the time that I knew him and at some point moved into the business world, first working for Sun Microsystems and later Oracle Corporation in Dubai. He also graciously wrote a recommendation, which helped me to receive a full scholarship from the Chinese government for my MBA degree.


You were surprised at my views on supporting the student protest, especially as I’m an ex-academic and solicited further explanation. Here goes:

I am of the option that education (at all levels) should be heavily subsidised by government. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that education, including tertiary, should be free.

Yes, free!

An educated society is a strong society and this is particularly true for societies with high levels of educated women (but that is a discussion for another day.)

For the good of society as a whole I don’t understand why capable people should be excluded simply because they are not able to pay. The whole point of education is to lift those people from poverty, not so? Likewise I don’t understand why you should spend years recovering from debt which has been forced upon you in order to educate yourself.

So, I agree with the students that there should be no fee increases, I’d say they need to take it further and demand no fees at all.


But they are protesting to the wrong people, it is not the universities that are at fault. In my view it is the South African government, and in particular the ANC, that is the guilty party. They have stolen, squandered and mismanaged the country’s resources for their own gain and so have not provided the universities with appropriate funding, hence the universities have not choice but to raise fees to keep the the lights on.

The protesters should be barricading Luthuli House and Parliament. They should be demanding explanations from Blade Nzimande, not vice-chancellors. They should be preventing ANC members-of-parliament from leaving/entering, not their fellow students and their lecturers.

The fact that SASCO leaders are wearing ANC colours when it’s the fault of the ANC that the fees are a) very high and b) increasing says one of the following: The students don’t understand that universities are reliant on government for funding, or they are being orchestrated to target university management, probably because they are white and so an easy target.


In addition, I am deeply suspicious that this is being orchestrated by the ANC itself to direct attention away from their own failings. I’m also wondering if this isn’t part of of the wider ANC/SACP strategy (going back to 1976) to keep supporters out of education to ensure that the population remains uneducated. An uneducated populace is easily controlled, educated people ask too many uncomfortable questions. This is a typical communist strategy and I would not be surprised to find Cronin & Nzimande, die hard communist dinosaurs, at the bottom of it all. If so, I hope it bites them in the ass.

So, in short: I support the protests. I don’t support the violence. The protesters are protesting to and about the wrong people.

 

Democratic Alliance leads elections race in Internet performance

An in-depth analysis of the Internet strategy of the main political parties in South Afrca’s 2009 general elections reveals that the Democratic Alliance has a substantial lead in online performance over its rivals. The African National Congress comes in a distant second, narrowly ahead of the Congress of the People. The United Democratic Movement and Independent Democrats, in turn, are well behind COPE, while the Inkatha Freedom Party trails so far behind, its web presence is described as “damaging”.

The first formal web site benchmarking survey of South African political parties was released today by World Wide Worx, which uses its Webagility system to evaluate and benchmark web site usability and strategy of companies, organisations and institutions in South Africa and globally.

The Webagility system breaks the analysis down into several modules, including usability, social media, campaign effectiveness, and content strategy. Each module contains up to 30 micro-elements, which are each assigned a score, providing a detailed measure of overall effectiveness of online presence. Webagility has been used to analyse sites for clients as diverse as major retailers, banks, bookstores, the City of Jo’burg, SA Revenue Services, the SA Institute of Chartered Accountants and Wits University.

“The DA site achieves only an average score from a usability point of view, but their content strategy sets them apart,” says Steven Ambrose, manage director of WWW Strategy, which conducts the Webagility analyses on behalf of World Wide Worx. Ambrose heads up the Webagility team of analysts. “Benchmarked against global best practise, the DA scores 81% on content strategy, against 64% by the ANC and 60% by COPE.”

In usability, the DA score drops to 69%, while the ANC is consistent at 63% and COPE drops to 57%. Campaign effectiveness sees similar ratings for the DA, at 65%, while the ANC scores only 48%, COPE 45% and the UDM comparing well with these at 43%.

The much vaunted use of social media like blogging, Facebook and YouTube by the political parties is revealed by the analysis to lag behind global best practise. While the DA still leads substantially here, its benchmarked score drops to 69%. The ANC plummets to 47% and COPE 43%.

“The difference lies not so much in what they are doing, but in how they are doing it,” says Ambrose. “The ANC have clearly invested heavily in their online presence, and their YouTube site looks most impressive at first sight. But it is put to very poor use, with uninspiring content, and little opportunity for voter engagement. The DA, on the other hand, has spent less money on the Internet, but scores far higher due to the direct engagement of its own representatives. Their blogs are not only relevant, but interesting, so it comes across as real engagement rather than a public relations exercise.”

The overall Webagility scores of the major parties, benchmarked against global best practice, are:

  • DA: 76%
  • ANC: 61%
  • COPE: 56%
  • UDM: 43%
  • ID: 32%
  • IFP: 23%

“The poor performance of the IFP web site, which our system characterises as ‘potentially damaging’, is a reflection of the reality that the IFP does not expect its target voter audience to be found among Internet users,” says Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx. “It is probably not vote-effective for them to spend too much energy online. The ID’s performance is more a reflection of poor understanding of online strategy, with its leader famous for her attacks on blogs.”

Goldstuck adds that the DA has clearly done its homework on the Obama campaign in the USA, which set the standard globally for embracing the Internet in political campaigning.

Says Goldstuck, “We have nothing like that kind of sophistication in South Africa, but lessons are being learned fast.”

A PowerPoint presentation summarising the Webagility analysis can be downloaded at the World Wide Worx web site.

Media contacts

· * For comment on this press release, please contact Steven Ambrose, MD of WWW Strategy, on 011 782 0045 or 083 601 0333, or e-mail steven@wwwstrategy.co.za

· * For further information, please contact Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx, on 011 782 7003 or 083 326 4345, or e-mail arthur@worldwideworx.com