Vodacom’s First Disability Conference

Vodacom is gearing up to host its inaugural conference, dedicated to advancing the digital inclusion of people with disabilities. Drawing insights from global thought leaders, policy experts, and business figures, the event aims to bolster efforts within the telco industry to narrow the digital gap for individuals with disabilities across Africa.

Esteemed local government officials well-versed in disability policy will join the panel of experts, exploring the role of policies in fostering inclusion and the utilization of ICT to expedite the integration of people with disabilities. Notable figures like Shuaib Chalklen, Executive Director for Africa Disability Forum, will shed light on the implications of a new Africa Disability Protocol policy, while Christopher Patnoe, Google’s Head of Accessibility and Disability Inclusion for EMEA, will offer insights from the international ICT arena. Additionally, leaders from Disabled People’s Organisations, including Judith Coetzee, CEO of Cape Town Society for the Blind, will contribute to discussions on enhancing accessibility and promoting the engagement of people with disabilities in the digital sphere. The panel will feature a diverse array of speakers, including Vodacom Group CEO, Shameel Joosub.

Sitho Mdlalose, CEO of Vodacom South Africa, expressed excitement over the conference coinciding with the company’s 30th anniversary. Mdlalose highlighted Vodacom’s commitment to leveraging insights from the event to accelerate their longstanding efforts in developing innovative products and services aimed at bridging the digital divide for people with disabilities.

Taki Netshitenzhe, Vodacom South Africa’s Director of External Affairs, emphasized the significant number of Africans with disabilities, citing over 80 million individuals according to the United Nations. Recognizing the transformative role of accessible digital technologies, Netshitenzhe underscored Vodacom’s dedication to fostering digital inclusion through initiatives like the conference, aligned with the company’s ethos of inclusion for all.

The conference will serve as a platform to spotlight achievements, identify opportunities, and address remaining challenges in enhancing digital inclusion for people with disabilities. Speakers will tackle various issues affecting inclusion, offering avenues for collaborative solutions and innovation.

Furthermore, the event will prompt introspection within Vodacom and other employers, as Netshitenzhe highlighted the importance of addressing workplace and employment barriers faced by individuals with disabilities. By leveraging insights shared by speakers, Vodacom aims to drive meaningful change and address the multifaceted challenges encountered by people with disabilities across Africa.

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