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Ad industry well-placed to boost SA education

Our current challenges that include perpetual spoiler Eskom throwing shade at our economy should not distract us from South Africa's impressive achievements.
© Igor Starkov via

No-one can deny we’ve notched up some good ones over the years. From such diverse responses to the challenges of the day as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to the Hippo Water Roller, South Africans are fixers.

When it comes to the country’s marketing and advertising community, we’ve often rolled out innovative products and services showcasing our client or employer’s brands using blended models when budgets are tight.

In practice, this might mean two or more brands sharing a platform or the need to somehow subsidise a creative campaign to bring down the cost to the client.

Sorry state of affairs

I was recently reminded of subsidised marketing efforts while watching President Cyril Ramaphosa’s recent State of the Nation Address. During his annual update to the nation, the President highlighted the sorry state of affairs in South African education.

To remedy the dire lack of appropriate teaching materials and equipment in many schools, the President has promised to roll-out a tablet per learner over the next few years. Whether this promise will go the way of similar ‘laptop per child’ promises of the past remains to be seen, but we should all be hopeful and supportive of this latest initiative.

Tablets are much more appropriate to the school environment compared to laptops, while offering lower cost as well. Tablets can be pre-loaded with all manner of educational software; however, they do need access to mobile data for an optimal and up-to-date learning experience. This is where we go back to the subsidisation model so effectively deployed by the marketing and advertising community.

Ad-subsidised Wi-Fi

The declining cost of mobile data following Icasa’s announcements around its market enquiry into the historically-exorbitant cost of mobile data is starting to see some pretty innovative rollouts of Wi-Fi.

One such model could be effectively used in schools to power President Ramaphosa’s promised tablet roll out. Advertising is being used by one entrepreneur to subsidise the roll out of free Wi-Fi in public places, which could ostensibly include schools.

We’ve seen advertising banners being erected on school fields, gates and fences for years now, while commercial ads are regularly placed in school newspapers to thank local businesses for their support.

Surely it is time for the powers that be to consider allowing the roll out of ad-subsidised Wi-Fi within school grounds as a way to power the tablets promised by the President? If we add the declining cost of mobile data to the mix, it really does seem like the time is right for subsidised school Wi-Fi.

I doubt many parents still see the internet as some sort of window on a debauched world to be avoided. It’s obvious now that the worldwide web is the greatest learning tool since movable type. If South Africa is to improve its atrocious global rankings in maths and science education, in particular, we need to start using the country’s marketing and advertising community to roll out wireless school Internet access subsidised by advertising.
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About Devon Meerholz

Devon Meerholz is Chief Creative Officer at IMImobile, a global software and solutions group with a presence in over 60 countries worldwide. Devon's unique approach to creativity is put to good use at IMImobile's Johannesburg office. Here he works with a multidisciplinary team to develop SA-specific mobile initiatives from bank statements to cross-platform personalised marketing videos that enable the company's clients to speak to current and potential customers in more visual, appealing and creative ways.