Mazibuko’s academy educates politicians on tech regulation

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 10 Nov 2022
Lindiwe Mazibuko, co-founder and CEO of Futurelect.
Lindiwe Mazibuko, co-founder and CEO of Futurelect.

Former Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko says she is on a mission to help educate regulators and policy-makers on how to effectively govern and regulate emerging technologies, to avoid tech catastrophes.

Speaking this week in Cape Town at the Africa Tech Festival, the home of AfricaCom 2022, Mazibuko outlined her vision as co-founder and CEO of Futurelect, a political academy to support a new generation of ethical public leaders in Africa.

Mazibuko was not only the first black woman to be elected to the post of leader of the opposition in the National Assembly in SA, she was also one of the youngest MPs to be appointed parliamentary leader of the opposition at the age of 31.

She resigned from her position in 2014, to pursue her studies at Harvard University in the US.

Founded four years ago, Futurelect is a non-profit, multi-faceted skills development organisation that delivers non-partisan leadership development and training programmes to diverse groups of ethical African leaders, in order to help prepare them for leadership roles in politics and the public service.

Programmes include public narrative, readiness to govern, public participation and political communication.

Mazibuko told the audience that she is expanding the academy’s offerings to include a new programme aimed at the regulation of emerging technologies.

“We want to bump up the quality of technology regulation in South Africa. We are engaging a number of big tech companies to partner with us on a programme which focuses on technology regulation to ensure policy-makers and regulators in Parliament get access to technology regulation education,” she explained.

According to Mazibuko, duties associated with regulating emerging technologies often come with complexities, which regulators and policy-makers are not always adequately equipped to deal with.

“Regulators hold the private sector accountable in order to make sure they are upholding data privacy, safety and security, regulatory compliance requirements and a lot of other important things they are responsible for – all this is done in a sphere where a lot of policy-makers have absolutely no education in, whatsoever.”

ICT industry pundits have for a while been echoing concerns around policy-makers’ lack of education and understanding of emerging technologies, noting this is anticipated to be among the key challenges delaying SA in catching up with the rest of the world in the deployment of Web 3.0 technologies.

This week at Africa Tech Festival 2022, a panel of ICT experts agreed that regulation has not kept up with what is required to continue to drive digital development on the African continent.

Mazibuko urged technology companies to partner with Futurelect, to make the academy’s vision a reality, while strongly pointing out those partner organisations “cannot dictate the curriculum offered to scholars.”

Meanwhile, Futurelect is also in the process of developing an online civic education portal, which will be made available to members of the public. The portal seeks to empower South African voters with a series of micro-courses about the nuts and bolts of democracy and the constitution – ahead of the 2024 general election, she continued.

She stressed the importance of such educational programmes, noting they should be officially offered as part of the South African schooling curriculum.

“We often hear people say ‘until I turned 18 and had to get an ID card, nobody had ever explained to me what the constitution is, what democracy is, and what my responsibilities as a voter are’. And when people don't vote, they are called useless and apathetic, yet nobody has explained what the importance of voting really is, and voting education is often focused on where to put your X.”

The e-learning programme, targeted at 18- to 45-year-olds, will provide access to information that will take participants through a step-by-step approach on a user-friendly platform that will be made available offline, via desktop and mobile platform, she noted.