South Africa as a country faces stark socio-economic development challenges, such as
extreme levels of inequality and unemployment, and specifically youth unemployment. To
assist with addressing some of these challenges associated with the history of apartheid, the
South African government instituted Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE).
One of the instruments to implement B-BBEE is Corporate Social Investment (CSI). CSI refers
to projects that companies undertake that goes beyond their primary profit motive, to assist
and empower disadvantaged individuals and communities. A number of CSI projects in South
Africa has an Information and Communications Technology (ICT) focus, where companies
spend their CSI budget to contribute to, among other things, ICT skills development. Research
has revealed that these types of projects are often short-lived, and at times unsustainable. As
a result, communities are not necessarily benefiting from such projects. The objective of this
research is to analyse the impact of South African CSI projects with an ICT focus on poor
urban communities. The study is further limited in scope to CSI ICT initiatives aimed at
supporting disadvantaged youth.
The study followed a qualitative research approach. Four case studies were performed in poor
urban communities in Soweto, all four of them CSI initiatives that were aimed at providing ICT
support to disadvantaged youth. A systems framework was developed using literature as a
foundation from which to analyse the cases. The systems framework is primarily based on
Checkland’s soft systems methodology, which facilitates an inquiry into the problem situation
and context. The Ubuntu philosophy, which emphasises the belief systems in which people
and communities reflect their experiences in a day-to-day life, further supports the framework.
Lastly, autopoiesis was employed as part of the framework, as it describes the self-production
and sustainability of the system of interest.
The study sought to gather qualitative data to understand the problem situation and use as a
basis for analysis. Through an iterative process, data was collected from interviews, focus
groups, documentation, and observations at four learning centres in Soweto. The collected data pertained to the implementation of CSI ICT projects by learning centres between 2002 –
2016. The case studies were analysed by applying the social systems framework, which was
based on SSM, Ubuntu philosophy, and autopoiesis concepts.
The findings of the study indicate that companies derived some form of benefit for contributing
to CSI in poor communities. These benefits included having a local presence, achieving a
better B-BBEE rating that enables them to do business with the government, and to retain or
attract new business. In addition, the communities and their members benefited from the CSI
ICT projects; this demonstrated an essential element of Ubuntu, namely, that collectively
everyone could benefit. The CSI ICT projects had a positive impact on the socio-economic
situation of the communities. It contributed to the employability of the unemployed youth, as
they were trained in ICT skills. The school children used ICT to do their schoolwork and for
ICT training. In addition, the learning centres proved to be self-reproducing and selfmaintaining,
and therefore sustainable.
The contributions of the study include a systems framework and guiding principles that
companies, systems thinkers, and ICT4D practitioners could use to assess the sustainability
and the impact of similar projects that are geared towards achieving socio-economic
development in poor urban communities. Further, the research findings were used to refine
the theoretical framework to analyse the impact of CSI ICT projects in poor urban communities
in South Africa.
Thesis (PhD (Information Technology))--University of Pretoria, 2021.