Speech By The Deputy Minister of the Department of
Telecommunications and Postal Services,
Hon. Prof. Hlengiwe Mkhize
During the Occasion of
Green Point, Kimberley
12 June 2015
Theme: “Together we move South Africa forward”
Programme director, it always gives me a pleasure to stand before a youthful audience, for this is where our future leaders emanate. It only takes the right attitude and a push into the right direction by us as government through enabling policies and the accompanying service delivery to produce future leaders and responsible citizens.
This year marks thirty-nine years since the 16 June 1976 Soweto Uprising, this therefore gives our youth an opportunity to conduct a self-introspection to check progress made since then. The struggles you are faced with today cannot be the same as the struggles of the youth of 1976, a lot has changed since then. The youth of today have unique challenges, here in Green Point for instance your challenges might be issues such as drugs/alcohol abuse, high rates of school dropout, high youth unemployment rates, gender based violence to name a few.
The youth of 1976 stood up for what they believed was part of their fundamental rights. Given all these challenges that you are faced with here in Green Point you must be able to stand up as the youth and ask what is it the meaningful contribution that you can make to change the situation around. Most innovators worldwide are the youth, creators of your famous social media applications such as Facebook and Whatsapp created these at their youthful age. They never waited for somebody to persuade them into doing what they finally did.
That does not mean that as government we should distance ourselves from the process, we need to also conduct a self - introspection. Are our policies doing enough for our youth? Are our service delivery standards at optimum levels? Are our policies encouraging participation in sectors such as the ICT sector, which was initially seen as the sector for the elite?
The theme for this event taken from the National Youth Month Theme is: “Youth Moving South Africa Forward”. We acknowledge and celebrate the June month dialogues taking place in the country since the beginning of the month. We must however, find a way of ensuring that our youth are continuously engaged in the democratic participation and development of the country. To properly address the social ills that we are experiencing in our societies today we need to strongly focus on moral regeneration and leveraging on sectors such as the ICT sector for employment creation.
According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report 2013, talent shortage is the greatest obstacle to realizing value from big data. Based on current trends, by 2020 the world will generate 50 times the amount of information and 75 times the number of “information containers” it uses now, while IT staff to manage it will grow less than 1.5 times. In South Africa, like in many other developing countries, big data is a new phenomenon. This is a niche area where our youth can derive greater benefits in the form of jobs, innovation and entrepreneurship.
Big Data is voluminous amount of structured, semi-structured and unstructured data that has the potential to be mined for information. Accuracy in big data may lead to more confident decision making. And better decisions can mean greater operational efficiency, cost reductions and reduced risk. Analysis of data sets can find new correlations, to "spot business trends, prevent diseases, combat crime and so on.
In today’s world data are woven into every sector and function in the global economy, and, like other essential factors of production such as hard assets and human capital, much of modern economic activity simply could not take place without them. According to the Ivey Business Journal, the use of Big Data will become the basis of competition and growth for individual firms, enhancing productivity and creating significant value for the world economy by reducing waste and increasing the quality of products and services. It is for this very reason we are now encouraging our youth to partake in the ICT sector. Given its cross-cutting nature, the ICT sector has unlimited possibilities. We must leverage big data analytics for inclusive growth, so that everyone can make contributions toward growth and all sectors of society can benefit from the dividends and sense of purpose that outcome.
The World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report released this year reports that the economic impact made by the Internet over the past several decades, with its significant contributions to nations’ gross domestic product (GDP) and it’s fuelling of innovative industries, has been massive. The Internet has also generated societal change by connecting individuals and communities, providing access to information and services, and promoting transparency. It then becomes imperative for an area such as Green Point to be connected, not only for social activities as you normally make use of ICTs for these reasons but to enable the youth to meaningfully participate in the mainstream economy. For instance if you do not have internet connectivity how then are you going to learn about how youth in other communities outside Green Point are tackling their challenges?
The number of individual mobile subscribers in sub-Saharan Africa is set to surpass the half a billion mark by 2020 as mobile services become more affordable, becoming the world’s second-largest mobile market after Asia Pacific. In addition, the number of mobile connections in the region is expected to rise to 975-million by 2020, from 608-million in June 2014, according to a report released by the Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA) in November 2014.
Six markets in Africa; Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania account for over half of Sub-Saharan Africa’s unique mobile subscriber base. According to the report, there were about 329-million (38% of the region’s total population) mobile subscribers in the region by the end June 2014. South Africa has an Internet user penetration rate of 48,9% and it is ranked 80th in the world. This network that gets all these people connected has no boundaries and in essence it means that all the youth solutions that we create should migrate across the country and the continent.
The National Development Plan and South Africa Connect Policy
Our government views the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Sector as a game changer which can ensure inclusive access to scarce resources of this country. The National Development Plan (NDP) Vision 2030 pronounces that ICT will continue to transform economic and social activities, and how individuals and communities communicate and function. The impact on each sector of society and each area of service delivery will depend on how uptake is addressed. Our action today can be seen as one of the critical steps towards ensuring increased uptake and usage of ICTs. A single cohesive strategy is essential to ensure diffusion of ICTs in all areas of society and the economy. Like energy and transport, ICT is an enabler – it can speed up delivery, support analysis, build intelligence, and create new ways to share, learn and engage.
The Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services has been very responsive in ensuring that a single cohesive policy for Broadband in the form of “South Africa Connect” is formulated and adopted to ensure affordable, equitable access and usage of Broadband. The South Africa Connect Broadband policy gives an expression to South Africa Vision 2030 in the NDP “a seamless information infrastructure by 2030 that will underpin a dynamic and connected vibrant information society and a knowledge economy that is more inclusive, equitable and prosperous”.
One of the Pillars of the South Africa Connect Policy is to ensure “Digital Opportunity”. This will ensure multifaceted series of interventions which will stimulate demand through the e-readiness programmes in schools and clinics, formal skills development in curricula and general awareness and e-literacy campaigns. The high-level skills required by the sector, and the user skills necessary for social and economic inclusion will be targeted in schools, universities and community access centres to secure and create work.
The Department’s Schools Connectivity Programme
As government we have over a number of years now been engaged in the programme of connecting Schools to give learners and teachers access to valuable teaching and learning in order to improve the quality of Education. Out of a total of over 24 000 government schools in the country more than 5000 schools, have been connected for teaching and learning. We are aware that in most communities, after installing these computer laboratories the problem then becomes security of the hardware tools i.e. the computers/laptops. We condemn criminal activities which undermines our efforts to improve the quality of education through the use of ICTs. We call for strong partnership with the South African Police Service to highlight our seriousness of addressing criminal theft and vandalism in schools.
The aim is not only to end the connection at a school, throughout our connection footprint we want to end up creating localised ICT hubs. These localized ICT Hubs will be one of the tools which will be used to create digital opportunities which will curb youth unemployment. This can be done through e-skilling programs which will encourage the youth to participate actively in the ICT sector through innovation as well as enterprise development.
With assistance from our agencies and private partners such as iKamva National e-Skills Institute (iNeSI), Telkom, MTN, Intel etc. we already have enough capacity to skill the rural youth. These institutions will be linked with these localized ICT Hubs in order to ensure that issues relating to skills shortages are addressed.
Making use of these centres we need to focus our attention on uplifting the black girl child in order to redress the imbalances of the past and provide women with empowering ICT skills. More so because in our country patriarchy has been deeply rooted and can be traced from as far as our cultures as different races in the society including our corporate culture. Dismantling this culture of patriarchy must start at a very early age.
We are able to deliver this programme of e-education because of our valuable partnership between government and private/public sector companies such as Telkom, MTN, Vodacom SITA, USAASA, and SENTECH. Without these companies and many others that we are partnering with, our objectives can never be fulfilled.
As the government or as the department we do not operate in isolation from what other countries are doing. Our Country is a member state of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and we have noted initiatives undertaken in order to develop and improve the livelihood of Women in ICT. ITU has established GEM-TECH to eradicate the gender digital divide. We have established a platform to assist more Women to access the ICT services in the form of an ICT Centre in Tlhabane, Rustenburg. The centre gives women access to information and knowledge that will ensure their empowerment. The Department with the contribution of Deloitte and Intel has also established a website which will assist to push the agenda of Women in ICT forward. The name link of the website is www.ulwazi-ict.co.za for those who might be keen to visit. On this website women are able to network, find women suppliers around their area and also address issues of gender based violence. This is a good model to be exported to other communities such as Green Point. Issues identified by this community, gender based violence, drugs and alcohol abuse, high rates of school dropout, youth unemployment, etc. almost talks to a lost generation in a mist of a myriad of opportunities created by our democracy. Our national policies such as the ICT policy must deal with these issues to restore national pride of all citizens, encourage social cohesion and entrepreneurship.
Broadband Penetration Numbers in South Africa
According to access to telecommunications statistics released by Statistics South Africa in the General Household Survey of 2014, only 4,1% of households did not have access to either landlines or cell phones nationally. Households without access to these communication media were most common in Northern Cape with 10,2% and Eastern Cape 8,9%. Merely 0,2% of South African households used only landlines. By comparison, 83,1% of South African households used only cellular phones in their homes.
The largest percentages of households who used only cellular phones in their homes were observed in Limpopo with 93,3%, Mpumalanga with 92,1%, North West with 88,6 % and Free State 87,6%. Western Cape had the lowest percentage of households who had only cellular phones in their homes, with 64,4% and this province also had the highest percentage of households that were using only landlines with a 0,7%. The use of a combination of both cellular phones and landlines in households was most prevalent in the more affluent provinces, namely Western Cape with 29,7% and
Gauteng with 16,1%.
Connectivity and Improved opportunities for economic inclusion
Government’s focus has always been to make sure that poor communities are included in the mainstream economy. For instance, if you are a painter/artist, your work of art should not be limited to you selling it in the local mall but must be made known countrywide. It is for this reason that President Jacob Zuma has mentioned earlier this year in his State of the Nation Address that the first phase of broadband roll-out will start off at the eight poor district municipalities which are also used as pilot sites for the National Health Insurance (NHI). These are: OR. Tambo (EC), Gert Sibande (MP), Pixley ka Seme (NC),Thabo Mofutsanyane (FS), Umgungundlovu & Umzinyathi (KZN), Dr Kenneth Kaunda (NW) and Pixley ka Seme (NC).
Leveraging on the availability of broadband, e-commerce could be a powerful vehicle for sustainable development, opening up opportunities for marginalized areas and communities. A series of studies conducted by organisations such as GSM Association have found a positive relationship between mobile penetration and economic growth. Mobile phones have been found to bring about benefits such as improved communication, social inclusion, economic activity and productivity in sectors such as agriculture, health, education and finance.
The availability of mobile services generates numerous economic benefits to a country’s economy. Mobile telephony positively affects the supply side of the economy through operations undertaken by mobile operators and players in the wider mobile ecosystem, including providers of network services, providers of other support and commercial services, and the network of formal and informal points of sale throughout the country. The majority of the users of these mobile services are you, the youth, your usage of mobile devices should not just be in vain but should result in meaningful contribution to the economy. This is an era where we should have a lot of techno-entrepreneurs, it doesn’t matter where you are from as long as you are connected there is no limit. There are some inspiring examples from all over the world, for example, there is an entrepreneur in Serbia who opened an online portal for selling cattle; in Kenya somebody established an online crafts marketplace that works with artisans who have no bank accounts or computers. If they can do it why not you?
Radio spectrum is a valuable natural resource, as limited as other resources such gold and diamonds. It has a dramatic impact on the livelihood of the carriers, and that in turn affects the quality and cost of the wireless service we get at home, at work and out and about.
This spectrum is the lifeblood of the wireless industry, more spectrum means faster and more-reliable wireless service. The auctioning of this scarce radio spectrum is crucial to the development of our poor communities.
Youth Digital Inclusion
South Africa is projected to have the 8th highest unemployment rate in the world, this is according to a report released by the International Labour Organization (ILO) earlier this year. The report notes that the youth are seriously affected by the high unemployment rate is the youth whose unemployment rate is now at 52.5%.
SA Connect has identified human capital development as a key success factor in ensuring social and economic inclusion in the Information Society and knowledge-economy. The effective development of the Information Society as well as the application of ICT for an increased efficiency in economic and societal processes requires coordinated efforts from all government institutions, the private sector and civil society.
Digital value for connectivity up to trade and competitiveness through exports
An Information Economy Report released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in 2015 has found new evidence that suggests that there are significant gains from selling on the Internet and that such effects are particularly important for smaller enterprises and in service industries. Enhancing small enterprises to explore e-commerce options, to tap the emerging opportunities in online retail and to integrate better in global supply chains would help to unleash their potential and spur economic growth in developing countries.
From our point of view as government e-commerce brings with it benefits such as new job creation in the ICT sector, related to software development, information technology (IT) consultancy services and web hosting. For those enterprises that become more successful as a result of expanded online sales, they will then be able to break into foreign markets and connect with international supply chains, and add competitive pressure in the economy. This will boost the country’s exports to other countries.
Regarding the important issue of economic empowerment, our government has committed to implement radical economic transformation during this second decade of freedom. We want young people to prepare themselves to meaningfully participate in the economy. We compel our youth to take advantage of the ICTs to create small business and create cooperatives to ensure they can play an active role in the economy. Young people needs to stand up for themselves and approach the funding institutions under the wing of the DTI and National Youth Development Agency in order to access funding for the ideas that you have.
I thank you.