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Policy Debate on Budget Vote 32: Telecommunications and Postal Services

DM MkhizePolicy Debate on Budget Vote 32: Telecommunications and Postal Services

By The Deputy Minister of the Department of
Telecommunications and Postal Services,
Hon. Prof. Hlengiwe Mkhize
Parliament of South Africa
Cape Town
18 June 2015

 

Honourable Chairperson

Honourable Minister Siyabonga Cwele, other Ministers, Deputy Minister and Senior Government Officials

Honourable Members of Parliament
Good Afternoon


Introduction


Chairperson, it gives us a great pleasure to present to this house the department’s budget vote with a specific emphasis on what we do in our provinces. Our targets in terms of the NDP are to achieve 100% broadband penetration by 2020. By 2016 the Broadband access in Mega Bits per Second (Mbps) per user experience is estimated to be 50% at 5 Mbps and by 2020 the estimation is 90% at 5 Mbps and 50% at 100Mbps. By 2030 the estimations are 100% at 10Mbps and 80% at 100Mbps.

 

For schools the targets are 50% at 10 Mbps by 2016; 100% at 10Mbps, 80% at 100Mbps by 2020; and 100% at 1 Giga Bits per Second (Gbps) by 2030. For health facilities the targets are 50% at 10Mbps by 2016; 100% at 10Mbps, 80% at 100Mbps by 2020; and 100% at 1Gbps by 2030. The targets for public sector facilities are 50% at 10Mbps by 2016; 100% at 10Mbps, 80% at 100Mbps by 2020; and 100% at 1Gbps by 2030.


There are huge benefits that can be realized after optimum levels of connectivity have been reached. Connectivity comes with benefits such as:


1. Cultural Diversity and Identity – the increased use of ICTs breaks down the communication barriers and positively contributes towards social cohesion
2. Linguistics Diversity – given the multiple languages which our country has, the use of ICTs helps in the development of ICTs specific to our domestic languages. This in turn challenges developers to be more innovative when it comes to software and program development.
3. Local Content – The increase use of ICTs will drive the demand for local content, as many people are empowered in making use of ICTs there will then be a need for the creation of more content or data services to further strengthen e-government.
4. Economic Inclusion – The increased use of ICTs will result in more job opportunities created in areas such as software development, maintenance and innovation.


During his State of the Nation Address, the President Jacob Zuma said: “The year 2015 will mark the beginning of the first phase of broadband roll-out. Government will connect offices in eight district municipalities.


These are Dr. Kenneth Kaunda in North West, Gert Sibande in Mpumalanga, O.R. Tambo in the Eastern Cape, Pixley ka Seme in the Northern Cape, Thabo Mofutsanyane in the Free State, Umgungundlovu and Umzinyathi in KwaZulu-Natal, and Vhembe in Limpopo.”


We have set out plans for the implementation of digital opportunities programmes in the NHI pilot sites to ensure that residents in these areas are able to benefit from the rollout of broadband infrastructure.


SCHOOL CONNECTIVITY ACHIEVEMENTS


Out of a total of over 24 000 government schools in the country more than 5000 schools, which is 22% of the total, have been connected for teaching and learning. In all our visits wherein we were launching computer laboratories, one issue kept on popping up, 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 will work with the South African Police Service to highlight our seriousness of addressing criminal theft and vandalism in schools.


More and more, the Localized ICT Hubs have become the face of government. Our intention is not only to connect the school but also to make sure that the community and other important government institutions such as the police and the justice departments are connected. Some of the examples of the schools we have visited include the following:
In Radipeu Primary Farm School, we celebrated 150 years of the existence of the International Telecommunications Union and World Telecommunications and Information Society Day, at Emfuleni Municipality outside Vanderbijlpark by launching a computer laboratory. The theme for this year was: Telecommunications and ICTs: Drivers of Innovation. The school portrays the realities of the digital divide in our society, it is a stone throwing away from our best Universities, also from one of our most successful multi-national companies, yet the road to the school is untarred. This launch was part of the schools connectivity programme which is one of our key projects aimed at facilitating universal access to ICTs for learning, information and knowledge an objective espoused in our Electronic Communications Act. We work with the private sector and State Owned Companies to aggressively deliver on this objective. We saw firsthand the warm appreciation shown by the school principal, as we unveiled the school computer laboratory affirming our conviction that our teachers and pupils are hungry for advanced knowledge and information. Our effort to build an inclusive, development-oriented information society and knowledge economy requires our dedicated efforts to improve e-learning and internet connectivity. This exciting moment was captured by the joy and up-liftment it brought to the learners, teachers, and the community members who joined us at the school. We sincerely thank Sentech for having made our dream a reality. The former principal at the school gave an emotional appreciation speech saying when the initial assessment visit was made by our SOC, she had thought that it will never be realized at such a poor neighbourhood.


Chairperson, we are hard at work.


On the 15 October 2014 we launched yet another computer laboratory at Joe Slovo Freedom High School in Molteno in the rural Eastern Cape with the assistance from one of our State Owned Companies (SOCs), USAASA. The school is in Chris Hani Region, Inkwanca Municipality. This school’s computer laboratory was opened as part of the school’s twenty years celebration. During the launch the SOCs which were present were challenged to look at ways in which the school can be further enriched. Post our visit Telkom has sent their technicians to the school to continue monitoring and maintaining network connectivity in the laboratory.


As part of our visit to the eight districts in which the president has said that the first phase of broadband roll-out should start, we visited Mavuso High School situated in Hluhluwe on the 10th of April 2015 and launched a computer laboratory. Hluhluwe is located around the Big Five False Bay Municipality which is part of the Umkhanyakude District Municipality. This District is one of four district municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal that were selected as presidential nodes to redirect public funding to priority areas for poverty alleviation. After realizing how poor the area is, one of our SOCs, USAASA has committed to broaden connectivity in the area. Through our smart partnership with the private sector, learners travelling a long distance to go to school have received bicycles today. We thank MTN for following on the commitment they have made when we launched the computer laboratory.
To empower young girls in South Africa, we also visited the Science and Engineering Telkom School, KwaMhlanga High School in Mpumalanga Province. Our main activity for the day comprised of a Children’s Parliament where the young girls were given a slot to talk about issues affecting them in technology and cyberspace. The majority of the girl-children who participated in this Children’s Parliament showed interest in wanting to know more about the opportunities within the ICT Sector as well as the relevant subjects which will make them eligible to study towards an ICT qualification.


Chairperson, we have in the previous weekend celebrated the National Youth day at a very rural village of Godide in Nkandla Local Municipality. We brought in one place the community, learners, the police and health care officials under the theme: Youth Moving South Africa Forward: Rural ICT Skills for Economic Inclusion. We wanted to show them that once one institution is connected it creates room for other institutions to be connected and the community to also get wireless internet connectivity. We thank our private sector partners Telkom, USAASA, and Huawei who have helped us in getting the area connected and also donating a computer laboratory to Mphemba High School.


The Department has in the previous year opened an ICT Centre in Tlhabane where Women can have access to information and knowledge that will ensure that they are empowered. The Department with the contribution of Deloitte and Intel has also established a website which will assist to push the agenda of Women ICT forward. Honourable Members the name link of the website is www.ulwazi-ict.co.za for those who might be keen to visit. It is important to note that the Department is also promulgating and formulating a Gender and ICT Strategy which will address the gender imbalances within the sector. Subsequent to the implementation of this programme, we have had similar request from areas such as Green Point in Kimberly, Northern Cape and we will honour this request through our smart partnership.


This financial year, we have been allocated a budget of R 1.4 billion to accomplish this goal. The bulk of this budget caters for Infrastructure Support and Shareholder Oversight with allocated amounts of R 600 million and R 400 million respectively. Our provinces are the main beneficiaries of the activities which we will engage in in this financial year.
The department has put aside an allocation of R105 million for Policy Research and Capacity Development. There are numerous ICT opportunities in most of our rural provinces which remain untapped, such opportunities can only be salvaged by conducting proper research and sufficiently equipping our rural people especially the youth with relevant ICT skills.

In order to fast-track broadband roll-out in the country, the department will this year spend a combined sum of R 200 million towards broadband roll-out and related processes. We have already started visiting provinces making sure that frontline government services and schools are connected, whilst teachers and learners are being trained.


CREATION OF LOCALIZED ICT HUBS AT A DISTRICT LEVEL.


Through smart partnerships with social partners and the private sector, we have an opportunity to enhance our connectivity efforts, skill our citizens and consolidate on e-government and the related e-strategies. e-Services are based on realizing the objectives of the Broadband Policy. The policy rests upon four strategic pillars, which are: digital readiness, digital development, digital future and digital opportunity.


Some of the objectives that we aim to achieve include:


• Developing a comprehensive Digital Entrepreneurship programme aimed at supporting all businesses to embrace digital technologies and exploiting social media.
• Local manufacturing (identifying niche areas and providing support measures for these enterprises).
• Opportunities will be created for young people to innovate. This will ensure uptake and usage of the ICT services.


Making use of the former Thusong Centers Model, the Department will in partnership with the municipalities, other social partners and participating companies in the broadband roll-out, create Localized ICT Hubs for coordination and integration of the last mile connectivity. Within these localized ICT Hubs the Department will focus on the improvement of e-literacy (e-Skills), e-enterprise development, youth inclusion and local economic empowerment. All these will be done with a view that jobs for the future will be ICT informed.


Within these Localized ICT Hubs, our partnership with the Department of Science and Technology, through their agency the Center for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is critical. The CSIR is the anchor to these Localized ICT Hubs and have an active role to play in the areas of preparing our poor communities for the digital future as well as Research, Development and Innovation.


These localized ICT hubs will benefit from our rationalization process whereby institutions such as the South African Post Office will be of great assistance. Our Post Office’s infrastructure is an asset for meeting the universal access objectives within the context of the South Africa Connect agenda. The Post Office has been positioned to be the major distributor of the Set-Top-Boxes to reach our people in distant rural household. This will further strengthen our Post Office and generate opportunities for our rural youth. Opportunities will be in the areas of maintenance and repairs of these Set-Top-Boxes.


Most importantly, the Localized ICT Hubs will be used to promote issues related to, youth digital inclusion, techno-girl programme and adult citizen’s online programmes. The details of these are as follows:


YOUTH DIGITAL INCLUSION


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 ICTs for an increased efficiency in economic and societal processes requires coordinated efforts from all government institutions, the private sector and civil society. All the efforts for the implementation of the Digital Opportunities programme are underpinned by the multi-stakeholder approach that will be undertaken, to ensure that the Information Society is developed in a coordinated manner through cooperation amongst all stakeholders.

According to a report released by the International Labour Organization (ILO) earlier this year, South Africa is projected to have the 8th highest unemployment rate in the world. The group seriously affected by the high unemployment rate is the youth whose unemployment rate is now at 52.5%. As such, the 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. Our skills institute, iKamva National e-Skills Institute (iNeSI), will be linked with these localized ICT Hubs in order to ensure that issues relating to skills shortages are addressed. This financial year a total of over R 36 000 has been allocated to iNeSI to be able to deliver on their programmes. In order to develop human capital, the following interventions will be undertaken


• Demand-side skills – this is addressed through e-literacy programmes which will ensure that relevant ICT skills get developed.
• Institutional capacity – this is addressed through skilling of staff in the ICT sector/industry.
• Supply-side skills – these are high level specialization skills which are acquired at institutions of higher learning. The department therefore calls for a stronger collaboration between Institutions of higher learning and the Government.


Transfer of e-skills in all sub-sectors of education must be inter-linked, there must never be a vacuum. For instance, iKamva National e-Skills Institute’s graduates are supposed to fit into Universities of Technology. It also suffices to say that our SOCs will need to seriously strengthen intake and training programs on learnerships and Internships. In this financial year we will also strengthen our partnership with the private sector to ensure that ICT skills also reach youth both in school and out of school more especially in our poor provinces.
The Department has recognized and undertaken to appropriate the use of technology to ensure that the Citizen of the country are able to have seamless access of the services of government. It is also equally important for a seamless inter-departmental communication for effective service delivery. It has to be noted that SITA, which has recently appointed a permanent CEO, will play a meaningful role in ensuring that the department is able to achieve full e-government objectives. This will be achieved in collaboration with the rest of the strategic government SOCs. We will continue strengthening SITA and refocusing this entities.


One of the department’s initiatives that will ensure that the Citizens are able to access government services within government departments is the effective ICT infrastructure through the current Broadband rollout project.


The availability of broadband brings with it lots of entrepreneurial opportunities particularly for the youth who are a very critical sector in communities. In order to harness these opportunities in full, it is critical that all stakeholders must partake in this process.


The localized ICT Hubs will also play a role on enterprise development for small businesses. The importance of small, medium and micro enterprises in the sector cannot be overlooked. Just to show how significant they are, our agency, SITA has in the previous financial year spent over R274 million in ICT SMME procurement, thus underlying the immense potential of public entities in SMME development.


THE TECHNO-GIRL PROGRAMME


In these localized ICT hubs we will be developing and strengthening SMMEs development programmes, Techno-girl programme, e-Government programmes and e-Skilling programmes.


The Techno-Girl Programme is facilitated by an NGO called Uweso Consulting. This organization places girl children in participating companies over a three year programme. At the end of the three year period each participating company should enable learners to select a field of specialization in the ICT sector, identify an institution of higher learning to further their studies and assist the learners with the application of bursaries to study towards a formal qualification in ICTs or any high tech sector. A good example is SITA, in the financial year 2014/15 they have taken 110 girls through the programme at all their offices countrywide.


This financial year a call will be made to all SOE’s and the ICT sector as a whole to support this programme which gives pupils a firm ground for inclusion.
As a part of Government sustainable and comprehensive development, nationwide healthcare reform is a high priority focus area for the Government. The e-government services will ensure an improvement of all citizens’ access to affordable and high quality healthcare services. The broadband roll-out will ensure that e-health services becomes a reality,
It also has to be noted that in order for the uptake of and implementation of e-government to be successful, there will be a need to identify and explore Digital opportunities. Digital opportunities come in the form of ICT applications development. In order to enjoy complete benefits brought about by Digital Opportunities, we are interfacing all programmes that support the development of ICT applications with formal Research, Development and Innovation (RDI) systems to collaborate, influence and direct efforts towards the development of ICT applications that support e-Administration, e-Health and e-Education, as prioritized in SA Connect.


Honourable members, let me remind you that we are moving towards an era whereby all government services will be online. The country’s access to information and knowledge via mobile telephony has expanded exponentially since the introduction of the technological application at the dawn of South Africa’s democracy in 1994. Mobile telephone penetration, measured through the quantity of active SIM cards, has exceeded 140% of the population.


The hub will assist in terms of processing on-line services and transactions whilst equipping adults with basics e-skills. e-Services aimed at the adult population will also be delivered through these Localized ICT Hubs. Women in rural areas are mostly engaged in subsistence farming and also in production of art grafts, these can be advertised at the localized ICT Hubs in markets outside their villages.


Conclusion


Chairperson, in closing, the newly established Ministry of Telecommunications and Postal Services recognizes the economic value of spectrum. In partnership with our sister Ministry and ICASA are working on policy directives to urgently address the unlocking of its effective potential use for social redress and economic growth especially in our poor provinces going further down to their district and local municipalities.


All the new entrants that would like to enter our sector are battling to break the monopoly of big operators and big businesses and agencies hoarding spectrum. We are unable to create new jobs and youthful initiatives on innovation; and creating new technology solutions; opportunity to stimulate the economy without the effective use and allocation; re-distribution of wealth through spectrum management.


Our major growth path and contribution to NDP in the ICT infrastructure space will rely on spectrum deployment. Our global competitiveness and attraction of foreign investment is premised on this matter as a priority area. We need to note our role, position and contribution in the ITU as we will be attending WRC-2015 conference. As a major contributor in Africa, South Africa has to move the continent forward. The use of spectrum on new technologies has to permeate economic inclusion; financial inclusion; and use of technology to innovate for wealth creation as just one of many values of effective spectrum management. Spectrum use and deployment is the heart of our countries source of income and growth; it is our new revenue source to transform this economy and modernize society in our quest to improve the quality of life.


I Thank You.