Speech by the Deputy Minister of the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Hon. Prof. Hlengiwe Mkhize, MP
During the Occasion of
Computer Laboratory Launch and Imbizo
At Mgezwa Senior Secondary School
04 April 2016
Theme: “Rural Connectivity – A Move Towards Smart Villages”
Councilor Mjokovana – Speaker Ingquza Hill Local Municipality
Mrs X Sigosa – SGB Chairperson
Mr. T.E Binase – District Director Department of Education
Mr. Nduva – Principal Thembalethu Senior Secondary School
Princess Sigcau – Kingdom of AmaMpondo ase Qaukeni
Representatives from Nemisa
Representatives from USAASA
Representatives from the Department
Ladies and Gentlemen;
Today it gives me such a great honour to be standing hear on the very soils of the province which has given birth to most of our struggle heroes. My gratitude has since been maximized by the fact that the main audience today is the youth, our country’s future leaders. Young people, you have a huge responsibility upon your shoulders. You need to maintain and even surpass the stature which this province has because of our heroes. One of our greatest diplomat, O.R Tambo was born right here on this very soil. One of our founding fathers of democracy, an international icon for peace, uTata Nelson Mandela was born here. We need to uplift the values they lived and died for in our daily lives.
Nationally, the Eastern Cape accounts for half of our automotive industry – a pillar of our industrial strategy. It includes two of our metropoles, and the port of Ngqura has the deepest container terminal port in Africa. It houses major universities and FET colleges as well as the wonders of the coastline and mountains which are central to our country’s tourism industry.
The Eastern Cape economy is also largely dependent on the automotive sector but has potential in areas such as chemical and petrochemicals, agriculture and agro-processing, capital goods, manufacturing, automotive and green industries.
We are also aware that the Eastern Cape is South Africa’s ‘wild’ province, featuring expanses of untouched beach, bush and forest. We have witnessed these beautiful hills and valleys whilst travelling down to Lusikisiki.
Whilst we recognise the importance of this province to the country’s combined economy, we cannot ignore the triple challenge of, poverty, joblessness and Inequality which we know that they continue to be a reality our people in deep rural areas. Through the effective use of enablers such as Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) this scourge can be wiped out completely. Our government recognises the ICT sector as an enabler because of its crosscutting nature.
Internet Connectivity in Rural Areas
The General House Survey (GHS) conducted by Statistics South Africa (Statsa) in 2014 indicates that 59.1% of the South African do not have internet access. Most people, as it appears, access the internet at work. A large number of people who lack access to the internet are people from the rural areas where there is insufficient or no infrastructure.
Some of the reasons indicated for not having mobile access or access at home includes:
• Cost of subscription which is too high
• Cost of equipment which is too high
• Lack of knowledge/skills/confidence
• Lack of access/no need
The survey has revealed that the poor were the most disadvantaged when it comes to internet connectivity. A large number of people in rural areas have no knowledge/skills/confidence to utilize the internet compared to the people in metros and urban areas. This highlights the need for awareness and focus on e-literacy.
The challenge of infrastructure is being addressed by South Africa connect that is deploying broadband infrastructure areas that do not have infrastructure. South Africa Connect has four pillars that support the information society and knowledge economy and takes a holistic approach to ensure that once the infrastructure has been deployed that there will also be availability of relevant content, that will be enabling legislation and that people on the ground will be able to have access to and take advantage of digital opportunities.
Connecting South Africa's rural areas to the internet
The hard work of getting South Africa Connected started back in 2013 when the then Department of Communications and the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) started on a project to identify broadband gaps in the entire country. This entailed the process of identifying which areas were connected to broadband and who were the owners of this broadband. The study revealed that:
• Telkom has the largest fibre footprint. Mostly above-ground along poles next to roads.
• Broadband Infraco is using fibre on Eskom and Transnet. Mostly above-ground along power lines.
• National Long Distance (NLD) or Co-built: Vodacom+MTN+Neotel consortium with SANRAL for long distance ducts. Each partner has its own pipe in the duct under the road.
• FibreCo has long distance ducts under road, open access fibre.
• DarkFibreAfrica has majority of city fibre networks (underground), some long distance networks (underground)
• Liquid Telecom has long distance duct under highway
• Other fibre infrastructures included PRASA, B-Wired, Metros, security estates, which had a very short distance links.
Most other “operators” use fibers from the above, and sell as fibre services. Owners/controllers of access to routes/ducts/servitudes/rights-of-way were found to be: SANRAL, Provincial road authorities, Eskom, Transnet, Prasa, and Cities.
Telkom was found to be owning more than 147 000 “cable” kilometers (km) which translates to a calculation of route-distance equaling 88000 km. This was one of the compelling reasons why the entity was made a lead agency in the roll-out of Broadband.
South Africa’s Broadband Policy was published on 06 December 2013. South Africa Connect gives expression to South Africa’s vision in the National Development Plan. South Africa Connect outlines a number of activities to improve broadband in South Africa. The vision for broadband is that by 2020, 100% of South Africans will have access to broadband services at 2.5% or less of the population’s average monthly income. A four-pronged strategy, with both supply- and demand- side interventions will close the identified gaps between the current status of broadband in the country and the vision in the NDP. The four interventions are:
• Digital readiness – laying the foundations for South Africa’s broadband future
• Digital development – addressing needs and measuring sustainable roll-out
• Digital future – roadmap for public and private investment in the next generation broadband networks
• Digital opportunity – ensuring that South Africa harness the benefit of broadband based on skills, R&D, and innovation, entrepreneurship, and relevant content and applications
It is government’s plan that while the private sector invest in ICT infrastructure for urban and corporate networks, government will co-invest for township and rural access, as well as for e-government, school and health connectivity.
This district, O.R Tambo District Municipality is important to us as the Department because it is one of our NHI Pilot Sites where the first phase of broadband rollout was prioritised. During his State of the Nation Address in 2015, 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.”
This does not only present an opportunity for government to provide services in places in most dire need but an opportunity is also presented to the business community, particularly women and youth business owners, in terms of the last mile connectivity. As much as we need points of presence in various areas across the country we will still need to deliver broadband to people’s houses, just the same way as we do with water and electricity.
Creation of Smart Cities
Metropolitan Municipalities have been leading in the implementation of Smart Sustainable Cities, particularly metros in our three golden cities i.e. Gauteng, Cape Town and Durban.
Some of the municipalities have dedicated resources towards improving productivity, continuously working with the private sector. The City of Tshwane has rolled-out 633 Wi-Fi public sites to provide free Wi-Fi. Gauteng and Western Cape provinces have expanded fibre networks to connect 150 and 186 Government facilities.
The private sector has contributed to increased mobile and fixed broadband infrastructure expansion. 3G Population coverage increased to 96% whilst Long-term Evolution (LTE) 4G population coverage increased to 35%.
Gauteng Province is making use of its Growth and Development Strategy (GDS) 2040 to take a transformational journey that the City of Johannesburg will use to create a Smart City in which the Citizens, and Businesses of Johannesburg can sustainably live, work and interact.
Activities in Gauteng Province’s City of Johannesburg includes:
• Smart Meter – Records consumption of electric energy in intervals of an hour or less. Communicates that information at least daily back to the utility for monitoring and billing purposes.
• Smart Grid – Electricity networks that can intelligently integrate the behavior and actions of all users connected to it — generators, consumers, and those that do both in order to efficiently deliver sustainable, economic, and secure electricity supplies.
• Bus Rapid Transit System – is a City project aimed at providing better public transport, reducing congestion on public roads, improving the environment and creating jobs. A high-tech control room monitors the buses and stations, ensuring that the bus system matches world-class standards. The control room has real-time tracking of bus movements and staff can communicate with each driver, ensuring that buses run on time and quick solutions are found for any eventuality.
• Johannesburg of Johannesburg Smart City free Wi-Fi – the city has hotspots available at bus stations across the city, as well as at 50% of all libraries and clinics across its seven regions.
The same model, whereby focus is on electricity, transport system and connectivity, is followed in the other metros, i.e. the City of Cape Town, City of Tshwane (which still forms part of Gauteng) and City of Durban.
DTPS’ Free Wi-Fi Programme
To ensure growth of free Wi-Fi hotspots, the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services has allocated about R40 million to six (6) Metropolitan Municipalities whereby about 230 sites will be connected to Wi-Fi. We believe that the move will assist us in realizing our goals of universal service access thereby closing the digital divide.
Benefits of Connectivity
Our aim in creating these additional hot-spots in the metros is two-fold:
• We want to develop an Information Society
• We also want to develop a knowledge economy
Increased connectivity is core to advancing South Africans into the global knowledge arena and is a key item of the nine-point plan.
There are also 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.
ICT Connectivity and Tourism
South Africa has proven itself to be one of the leading countries in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) with a well-established and sophisticated when we hosted the football world cup in 2010.
Our IT industry is one of the largest and most advanced in Africa, characterized by technology leadership, particularly in the field of mobile software and electronic banking services. It was for this reason that the country was chosen as the host for the 2010 soccer world cup and people where more than willing to come to our country. Over 300 000 tourists visited our country during the world cup with peace of mind because they could easily connect with their friends and families back at home and they could easily transact without having to carry cash.
South Africa's scenic beauty, magnificent outdoors, sunny climate, cultural diversity and reputation for delivering value for money have now made it one of the world's fastest growing leisure – and business – travel destinations. The Eastern Cape is no exception, counted with the leading tourism destinations.
Information technology can improve the province’s position in tourism through the use of interventions such as e-strategies. E-Strategies are at the center of fast-tracking social transformation and the growth of the GDP of our country. In most countries the leading innovations in technology comes from the youth. This should encourage our own youth to come up with apps that can make, for instance, travelling easier.
To create a good overpass between primary, secondary and tertiary ICT skills capability of learners and students there needs to be a strong foundation which will gradually introduce and root the learners into the use of ICTs in learning and everyday life. The NGP see the achievement of this through the use of departments of education to ensure that computer skills are taught in all secondary schools and form part of the standard adult basic education and training (ABET) curriculum. Cognizance is of course taken of the fact that for this aim to be achieved there should be a plan to train educators, access relevant teaching skills elsewhere and establish computer centres for learners and communities. The big debate in this is about being able to switch on and off or to develop programmes for critical thinking innovation and conceptualizing facing people on a daily basis.
South Africa's population is largely made up of young people. According to Statistics South Africa those who are below the age of 35 years constitute about 66% of the total population. With over 54 million South Africans, 18.5 per cent are between the ages 10-19; and 24 per cent are aged 15-24. Given their dominance towards the total population, it is therefore imperative that we provide our youth with appropriate and relevant e-skills for their contribution towards the country's economic growth and participation in the information society.
There are other interventions which a department like my own are currently engaged in to ensure that our nation is e-skilled. In our view, iNeSI is one of the strategic interventions referred to in SA Connect that is aimed at the development of local e-skills that are required by the sector and the user e-skills necessary for social and economic inclusion to secure and create jobs your ability.
Broadband infrastructure also drives e-government and e-commerce, the growth of which is dependent on consumer confidence and the level of trust in the cyber environment. Our policies take cognizance of the potential of the ICTs to change the manner in which government communicates and provide services to the citizens for South Africa to gain efficiencies, save costs and improve public services. The potential of business-to-business, business-to-consumer electronic services has also been amply demonstrated.
In collaboration with the Department of Public Service and Administration, my Department is working on the development of a coherent policy and structure for e-government services. We have noted a need to develop a well-structured distributed and secure interoperable e-government framework, that will enable ultimate migration of the frontline government services from paper based systems to paperless electronic systems. These services will be available to all citizens using a variety of access services.
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.
ICT CHALLENGES IN THE EASTERN CAPE
We are aware that this province presently has an underdeveloped Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector. We are also aware that in terms of the growth of the province by way of commercial and manufacturing operations, there is significant development potential and opportunity in the provincial ICT sector for investment and business operations.
Cognizance is made of the Eastern Cape Information Technology Initiative (ECITI), which is a provincial multi-faceted programme focused on providing support to SMMEs in ICT and related industries. This body is currently at the forefront of the ICT sector in the province and is supported by provincial government in line with provincial growth and development strategies. We would like also see far stretching areas such as Mgezwa village benefitting from ICT developments.
OPPORTUNITIES OF ICT IN THE EASTERN CAPE
Those who are interested in investing their skills and talent for the province, there are a few opportunities to consider in the area of ICTs. Opportunities in the provincial ICT and electronics software sector include:
Software Research and Development
The province with its strong tertiary education institutions, provides a solid foundation for investment in research and development of niche software for global markets.
Opportunities exist for the investment in, and development of, a technology park that will act as a technology incubator for the province. This initiative could form part of a private/public partnership between government and the private sector aa well as offering intensive support to SMME's and entrepreneurs wishing to enter the ICT sector.
Business Process Outsourcing and Offshoring
Telecommunications opportunities exist for the supply and maintenance of telecommunication systems in support of call centres and BPO&O operations in the province.
Culture and ICTs as Drivers of Sustainable Development
According to the United Nations’ (UN) specialized agency, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); culture, in its diverse manifestations - from tangible and intangible cultural heritage to cultural and creative industries - is a driver and enabler of the economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainable development.
UNESCO believes that ICTs have a direct impact on the way cultural expressions are created, produced, disseminated and accessed and also play an increasingly pertinent role in the safeguarding and transmission of cultural heritage.
For this to be realized, ICTs must be progressively incorporated into the cultural and creative sectors, and this will in turn create employment and boost trade and economies, while also promoting social cohesion, mutual understanding and self-esteem.
Active participation from government, academia and civil society partners, as well as local communities is necessary to ensure that ICTs applied to the cultural and creative sectors reaches the potential of contributing to more effective and sustainable development policies that can yield enhanced, inclusive and equitable development outcomes.
IMPACT OF ICT’S IN TOURISM
The Multiplicative effects of tourism are apparent through the economic effects, various development effects in the form of incentives for employment and social prosperity by implementing and coordinating the activities and services. This also refers to those companies which have been indirectly related to tourism.
Previously emphasized involvement of entities, such as entities that implement their mission in collaboration with the same type of enterprises or integrating with other subjects, seems very important, even crucial to the creation of value chain, regardless to geographic coverage and character of the business. This stresses the need for knowledge of new technologies. ICT offers the ability to foster improved competitive performance through network, clustering and formation of alliances as well as providing the richness of content increasingly required by consumers. Beyond buying, the integration of buying experiences, for example connecting the presentation of physical facilities, delivery processes, finance etc., as well as presentation that reaches customer segments in various new media mobiles, for example iPods, Facebook, is increasingly required. ICT can bring business change depending on attitudes related to IT awareness, i.e. competence related to the application of knowledge in new technologies.
As government, provinces and local communities we need to come together and work towards promoting the use of ICT’s to sustain our economy especially in a rapidly growing sector such as tourism, agro-processing and creative arts.
The uptake and usage of broadband requires the delivery of innovative and affordable services, the development of content and applications, procurement of manufacturing of ICT end-user devices and developing a digitally literate nation. These various elements of the value chain of providing broadband services presents good opportunities for women and youth businesses at large and particularly for the development of SMME’s in the sector.
The rollout of broadband infrastructure and services demands that business develop innovative and affordable solutions to respond to societal needs and use of broadband service. It also increases the demand for low cost computing devices, which women and youth can organize themselves, could form cooperatives which focuses on manufacturing.
I thank you!