Global Development Institute Blog

Jody-kay Jackson (ICTs for Development MSc) & Raghav Mutneja (Management and Information Systems: Change and Development MSc)

Fieldwork is an essential part of the Management and Information Systems: Change and Development and ICTs for Development master’s programs and this year, the students got to visit the lovely city of Cape Town in The Republic of South Africa. The 10-day trip was full of excitement, activities, learning, new experiences and of course, a nice opportunity for all of us to get away from the chilling weather in Manchester. And South Africa greeted us all with nice and warm sunshine.

Why Cape Town?

While Cape Town didn’t immediately strike us as a critical location, once we arrived we were soon able to experience firsthand how much the city had to offer when it came to innovation and development. It is Africa’s leading city for ICT innovations and the next hot location for tech-startups.

With many major players from the Silicon Valley trying to set up bases in Cape Town, it is also at the forefront of IS development. It is the perfect place for us, students, to compare and see the concepts such as the digital divide, the use of ICTs, or the various frameworks/models that we learn in classrooms, all in play in real life.

Cape Town is currently establishing government supporting programs such as the Open Data Portal for citizens, investing in good healthcare systems, setting up telecentres in rural areas and much more. And if all of this wasn’t enough, the city also boasts of amazing beaches, a beautiful waterfront and of course, Table Mountain.

ICTs, Role and Impact

During our fieldwork, we visited nine organisations and engaged in riveting discussions on a plethora of intriguing topics in the field of informatics. These included Cape Town City Council, Dimension Data, Teraco Data Centre, Mitchells Plain Hospital, Tronox Namakawa Sands, Duferco Steel Processing, Cape Access Community Telecentre, Worshop17, and Rlabs. It was impressive and inspiring to learn how these organisations are using ICTs to transform Cape Town. We will share with you three key examples.

Cape Town City Council – Open Data Initiative contributing to Water-Savings

The Cape Town City Council Open Data Initiative has fuelled several innovations and projects which have encouraged water-savings by citizens. By compiling open datasets on water consumption, citizens can know how much water is available and can monitor their own usage effectively.

Avinash Udupa on the M&IS course said: “I was able to connect what I am learning back in Manchester to what we saw today. I can see the problems that we read about in theory…how you tackle development and how ICTs are enabling people and empowering them to bring change to their lives.”

Students preparing for presentation at the Cape Town City Centre

Students preparing for the presentation at the Cape Town City Centre

Rlabs – Zlato application providing an economic opportunity for the unemployed.

Rlabs Zlato has brought hope to many young people who are unemployed and some of whom had been involved in gangs. The mission of this organization is to ‘Reconstruct communities through innovation, technology and education. One of their innovations that we were excited about is the Zlato application. This app provides an economic opportunity for persons to earn by enabling users involved in community projects to register their activities and to earn points that can be used for purchases at grocery stores and on public transportation among others. People who are unemployed have an opportunity to earn through their own inventions, business ideas and through volunteering in communities. We see this as a viable response to unemployment. Some of us will go on to explore the extent of this impact in our dissertations.

Small Group Photo at Rlabs after activity

Small Group Photo at Rlabs after activity

Workshop 17 and Entrepreneurship – Lüla Application reducing Traffic

Workshop 17 is a company that simply provides workspaces for startups and even bigger organisations to collaborate, conduct experiments and carry out innovation. The stylish office spaces are equipped with the necessary network infrastructure to enable businesses to stay connected to the rest of the world.

Within Workshop 17, we met Velani Mboweni who uses the Lüla application to provide car pooling for commuters to work using shuttle buses. The hope is to reduce congestion and journey times. Lüla has now been in operation for about 4 years and the business has been sustainable.

From our interaction with Velani, we are not only excited about his startup and the role of ICTs but we have been motivated by his story of innovation and his journey of becoming a successful entrepreneur. Many of us began to think of our own business ideas that we could implement upon graduation from our M&IS and ICT4D programmes.

Ida Hagen (Student) thanking Velani Mboweni (Entrepreneur)

Ida Hagen (Student) thanking Velani Mboweni (Entrepreneur)

Trip to Safari

Trip to Safari

Not all work and no play!

In addition to the visits and talks, the nice scheduling of our days allowed us enough time to absorb the beautiful city. Some grabbed opportunities to go visit the beaches, while others opted to spend time at the waterfront with live traditional music. The weekend was a really special one because we got to hike down Table Mountain. It was an inspiring moment to take in after all the demands of undertaking a master’s degree which requires preparation, endurance and constant work.

Visit to Beyersloof Wine Estate

Visit to Beyersloof Wine Estate


The fieldwork trip was like an ‘all you can have buffet’, where we took in the whole South African experience in 10 days, while learning from all the organisations and the amazing communities at the same time. It was a journey for all of us from our classrooms to the real world and it indeed came as a blessing. We came back as more knowledgeable students and as better colleagues. The trip was a great bonding opportunity for all the students, and the fieldwork clearly is the best way to transition from the conclusion of the first semester to a fresh start of the second.

And finally, a big token of appreciation to our lovely faculty members who put together this beautiful experience for us. Thank you so much.

From left to right: Jaco Renken (Staff), Elaine Robinson (Staff), Ashley Hall (Staff), Negar Tabrizi (Staff), Basma Albanna (Staff), Jody-Kay Jackson (Student), Ida Hagen (Student), Tomoya Ichikawa (Student), Alfonso Rivera (Staff), James Walker (Staff)

From left to right:
Jaco Renken (Staff), Elaine Robinson (Staff), Ashley Hall (Staff), Negar Tabrizi (Staff),
Basma Albanna (Staff), Jody-Kay Jackson (Student), Ida Hagen (Student), Tomoya Ichikawa (Student),
Alfonso Rivera (Staff), James Walker (Staff)


Photo credits: Basma Albanna (Staff), Akinbode Ayanniran (Student), Raghav Mutneja (Student), Avinash Udupa (Student)

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Note:  This article gives the views of the author/academic featured and does not represent the views of the Global Development Institute as a whole