It is a sobering reminder, according to South Africa’s new communications minister, that the outage of Facebook Inc. apps and services this week serves as a reminder that the government can do more to assist the development of local social-media platforms.
In a Q&A with reporters on Tuesday, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said the launch of the Naspers Ltd.-backed messaging service Mxit was proof that indigenous entrepreneurs can produce great technologies with the correct backing. According to consultancy World Wide Worx, Mxit had 7.4 million monthly active customers in 2013, but the company went out of business two years later due to competition from Facebook’s WhatsApp and other messaging apps.
Minister of Small Business Development, who was transferred from the department of small business development in August, stated that “South Africa needs to help young people and citizens in developing social media platforms that we utilize.” “We cannot rely on the West to provide our technical environment; instead, we must take the initiative as a nation.”
South African ministers are well-known for communicating with one another over the messaging app WhatsApp.
On Monday, Facebook services like WhatsApp and Instagram were unavailable for around six hours, affecting many of the company’s 2.7 billion global users. Because of the incident, there has been widespread introspection about the extent to which businesses and individuals rely on the $1 trillion organization — as well as renewed complaints that it wields excessive authority.
During the suspension, both Signal and Telegram, two private messaging apps, reported a significant increase in downloads and new user sign-ups. Snapchat was another winner, with usage increasing by 20 percent in just a few months.
According to Ntshavheni, the South African government is collaborating with state-owned information technology firm Sita to determine how the government might promote local social-networking efforts. She also mentioned the Department of Science and Innovation as another entity that could be of assistance.