Health disparities and the digital divide within South African disadvantaged communities during the COVID-19 pandemic

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4 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of this article is to highlight how technologies, which have for centu-ries revolutionalized healthcare, have conversely increased health disparities among disadvantaged communities in South Africa during coronavirus disease (COVID-19). A hard lockdown imposed on the country in March 2020, as an initial measure of containment of the novel virus, became unfeasible due to detri-mental, mostly economic effects on the economy. From 1 May, the government eased the lockdown restrictions and shifted the emphasis from containment to behaviour change measures using communication strategies that promoted adher-ence. Yet, even within disadvantaged communities, there have been differences in health-related access with differing levels of disadvantage. Secondary data were analysed from a cross-sectional quantitative survey conducted in ten disadvantaged communities in the Northern Cape and Gauteng Provinces involving 1742 participants. Results show that the lack of digital access to information created an obstacle to adherence to some recommended COVID-19-related behaviour change measures. Disparities existed between the two provinces’ disadvantaged communities based on an urban versus a rural province. The study emphasized the need to assess the extent of underlying obstacles to health equity and achievement of healthcare goals propagated by an interface between healthcare and socio-economic factors. Breakthroughs in healthcare, facilitated by virtual modes of communication may be undermined by a digital divide exacerbating disparities in disadvantaged communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-302
Number of pages18
JournalCatalan Journal of Communication and Cultural Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2021


  • COVID-19 prevention measures
  • Digital divide
  • Health disparities
  • Resource-constrained settings
  • Socio-economic status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication


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