Address by the Honourable Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Dr. Siyabonga Cwele at the 2015 Telkom Graduation Ceremony
02 October 2015
Thank you Programme Director, Ms Gorrette Doria,
Mr Sipho Maseko, Group CEO of Telkom,
Mr Oupa Mapaki, CEO of the MICT SETA,
Representatives from the Leadership Dialogue Network,
All invited guests,
And most importantly our distinguished graduates,
I am pleased to be speaking to all of you this morning as we celebrate the achievements of our graduands who have successfully completed their qualifications towards skills in the ICT Sector. It is indeed encouraging to see our young people making an effort to advance their education and skills in this sector which is experiencing a shortage of skilled personnel.
I believe you owe yourselves a round of applause for all the effort and dedication you have invested in order for you to be here today.
Your achievement today is part of a bigger picture in positioning our country as a global leader in ICT’s. Just this past Wednesday, South Africa received recognition for our efforts in marshaling our resources to move towards realizing the envisaged inclusive information society and digital economy as described by our National Development Plan’s Vision 2030. The 2015 – 2016 World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report published that South Africa has improved its overall global competitiveness ranking by 7 places from last year’s position 56 to 49th position on account of our increased uptake and use of ICT’s, particularly higher internet bandwidth.
This positive indicator of the development of our ICT sector comes at a time when we are implementing phase 1 of broadband roll-out to ensure that by the year 2017 we have connected all frontline service delivery government departments, schools, health care facilities, Thusong Centres and Post Offices in the 8 pilot districts announced by President Zuma at his 2015 State of the Nation Address. Phase 2 implementation of broadband rollout will commence in the year 2016 and all government offices in South Africa will be connected to a national broadband network by 2020.
When President Zuma announced government’s plan to rollout broadband, His Excellency also designated Telkom as the lead agency for government’s broadband rollout project. This decision was based on the reason that Telkom has the most extensive fiber optic network for broadband rollout in South Africa. This is important to us as a government as we are committed to bridging the digital divide by bringing connectivity to our people in the rural areas. I believe all those who are graduating today will in one or the other contribute to this programme of national importance.
Ladies and gentlemen,
ICT’s are the single most powerful tool that we have to transform South Africa into a prosperous developed nation where poverty, inequality and unemployment are not an everyday reality. The question that all of you as our graduands should be asking today should be how best can you be a part of this digital revolution and participate in South Africa’s digital economy?
Given the commitment from government to the ICT infrastructure rollout and the huge monetary investment in millions of Rand towards this project, all stakeholders will need to work together to ensure the availability of widespread technology skills, meeting the increased demand for ICT products and services and ensuring that we upgrade public service skills to develop a cadre of e-skilled public servants for better service delivery to citizens and the expansion of diverse skills and sufficient supply of a skilled workforce to meet the demands of a connected society. This includes the private sector, the public sector and all South Africans in their individual capacity.
I am confident that all of our graduands have taken the first step to be a part of South Africa’s digital revolution by enlisting to study a skill in the ICT sector and completing the requirements for a recognized qualification. Our graduands now have in their possession the stepping stone that will enable them to participate in the digital economy through formalized employment or better still venture out as innovators in the ICT space by running ICT SMME’s.
The most popular and successful developments and products in ICT’s such as Facebook, Apple and Microsoft amongst others were all ideas that were actioned by young people who wanted to do something great in the ICT space. I am bringing this as an encouragement to our graduands here today to think outside the box and look beyond just securing employment.
As we are rolling out broadband to all government facilities we will need local manufacturers of affordable tablets that will be used in our paperless classrooms, software developers that will create applications that speak to solving South Africa’s specific challenges and a wide variety of skills in ICT’s that will meet the needs of an increasingly growing digital economy. All of this can be achieved only if there is determination from ordinary South Africans who have the skills in ICT. If Apple started in Steve Jobs’ garage and Facebook started as a small scale idea for a campus at Harvard University, South Africans are also capable of creating the next big ICT innovation.
In this very country we have young people who have developed a solar powered Android tablet that is affordable and has been adapted for rural South Africa. I have personally met a young entrepreneur who found means to use a 3G connection to the internet and no longer trades on only fruits and vegetables from her backyard but also sells high value services such as airtime and electricity which has grown her small business. I believe you can also use the qualification and skills you have gained today beyond the workplace.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The skills development for an ICT enabled country should be the responsibility for all the stakeholders in the ICT field. I am particularly pleased that Telkom through its various programmes such as the Telkom Centre of Learning and the Telkom Centre of Excellence is playing a part in the digital skills revolution. I believe more can be done particularly ensuring that we have an ICT sector that reflects the South African population. I have been told that your programme intends to expand and also include people with disabilities. I look forward to that positive development. I hope that your skills development and research initiatives will serve as an example to other companies to contribute to the positive growth of the ICT sector.
My Department is in the process of speeding up the rapid deployment of ICT skills throughout the country through the finalization of the establishment of the Ikamva National e-Skills Institute (iNESI) as a legal entity. The Department will also publish a draft Bill that will address the need for ICT skills throughout the country. The DTPS also encourages that our national ICT skills programme must be delivered in a form of vendor courses and programmes designed to skill technicians and engineers who work on specific ICT programmes. The ultimate aim is to have these programmes recognised by the South African Qualification Authority (SAQA)
The iKamva National e-Skills Institute will harness all the stakeholders to rally behind a hybrid model that will ensure that an ICT Skill gap and shortage is addressed a massive scale.
The envisaged institutional role will be to:
• Act as a national catalyst and change agent for the development of e-skills;
• Play a lead in the advocacy role for adoption of ICT as a dominant force of way of life
• Ensure a universal availability of access to skills development opportunities to all in the country;
• Become a collaborative vehicle for all stakeholders interested in the ICT sphere through spearheading interventions
All of these interventions will ensure that South Africa continues to climb the ladder of global rankings but more importantly we are able to realize the vision of a truly connected society that is digitally inclusive.
Our apartheid past has left scars in our society in the form of poverty, inequality and unemployment which are contrary to what underpins a truly democratic nation. The South African government led by the ANC is committed to ensuring that we heal these scars and the ICT’s sector is a critical player in this industry.
I would like to once again applaud all our graduands sitting here today about to receive their qualifications. I am confident that this is the beginning of the journey where you will work hand in glove with government to ensure that come 2030, South Africa is a fully connected information society and a key player in the global digital economy.
I thank you.