Budget Vote Debate By The Deputy Minister of the Department of
Telecommunications and Postal Services,
Hon. Prof. Hlengiwe Mkhize
During the Occasion of DTPS Budget Vote No. 32
Parliament of South Africa
10 May 2016
Theme: “Accelerating Broadband Access for Ordinary Citizens”
Hon. Minister Dr. Siyabonga Cwele,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers
Chair of the Portfolio Committee MT Kubayi
Captains of Industry
We present this budget vote during the 60th anniversary of the Women’s March to the Union Buildings and the 40th anniversary of the Soweto Uprings. These are acts of courage which give us strength as we tackle deeply rooted historical problems, which have created a highly unequal society.
It is proper and fitting to briefly reflect on some of last year’s commitments:
• School Connectivity Programme
• Creation of Localized ICT Hubs - the improvement of e-literacy (e-Skills), e-enterprise, youth inclusion and local economic
• SME Development
• e-Government services
• Transformation of the ICT Sector
During this budget vote, we are accounting on progress made, claiming no easy victories, by also reflecting on perennial challenges. As we prepare for the local government elections, the school connectivity programme is a good story to tell. Currently we have connected a total of 11, 528 schools nationally. Of the 11, 528 connected schools, 3, 793 are located in rural areas and 6, 223 are in urban areas. The Department of Basic Education in many regions has initiated training modules for teachers on digital literacy. When we launch the school laboratories, we have been amazed by the number of parents and citizens who attend and express appreciation on behalf of the community.
We would like to congratulate the MEC of Education in Gauteng, Hon. Panyaza Lesufi for migrating the schools registration process on-line. This is a true example of our government in action.
With the launch of the Presidential Operation Phakisa, one of the streams is the use of ICTs in education.
As we are debating today, we have some of our guests who are witnesses to the work we have done in their different areas, looking at the gallery, for instance, the principal of Mathole High School is a witness to the fact that a child from Edlebe Mahlabathini, has access to the computer and can access the curriculum on-line like a child at Bishop’s Court in the Western Cape. The school connectivity programme talks to our ability to partner with the private sector and we commend the commitment made by some companies who have gone beyond the bear minimum requirements prescribed by the regulator. MTN left the memorable joy at Hluhluwe, uMkhanyakude District Municipality, during the launch of the school laboratory, when realizing the plight of rural children travelling long distances to school barefooted, made a second visit and warmed the hearts of villagers and school going children by giving them bicycles, shoes and lunch bags.
In our good story to tell, we acknowledge people like Prof. Darelle Greunen from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University who works tirelessly in connecting rural communities and use the connectivity to promote mobile health. We will continue our efforts in increasing the number of connected primary health care facilities especially in rural areas so that even home-based care-givers in rural areas can access health experts often concentrated in big cities. The municipalities in regions like Ekurhuleni have already connected a significant number of their health care facilities.
We recently visited the agricultural plant owned by the youth, in Ncera, OR Tambo region, whose agricultural plant was set up with the assistance of companies operating in the surrounding areas. To their representative sitting in the gallery, we want to assure you that access to the Internet will help you gather information on expert advice about suitable fertilizers, the e-environment, how to access finances and markets.
South African Youth Participation in the Global Information Society
Our first democratic President, uTata Nelson Mandela gave a promise to this generation that they will be citizens of global information society. The challenge for us has always been to connect rural areas. Our first democratic President, Tata Nelson Mandela when addressing the 7th World Telecommunications Forum and Exhibition on the 3 October 1995 in Geneva, emphasized the importance of skilling young people for the information revolution, he said: “Many of us here today have spent much of our lives without access to telecommunications or information services, and many of us will not live to see the flowering of the information age. But our children will. They are our greatest asset. And it is our responsibility to give them the skills and insight to build the information societies of the future. The young people of the world must be empowered to participate in the building of the information age. They must become the citizens of the global information society. And we must create the best conditions for their participation”.
The digital revolution is about the five A’s, namely:
• Availability of broadband network – especially in the most remote rural areas.
• Awareness – broadband rollout should not only be for its own sake, if people are not aware of the value of being connected they simply can’t enjoy the benefits of being online.
• Accessibility of broadband at a national level – once there is connectivity, there should also be connectivity to the village as well as connectivity to the home.
• Affordability – data is expensive, connectivity without internet access is worthless. Our people must get access to the network infrastructure as well as access to the data services, hence our bias towards open access networks.
• Ability to use the applications.
The merger of the National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa, the e-Skills Institute, and the Institute of Satellite Software Applications to form the Ikamva National e-Skills Institute was initiated to address the overlap, duplication and gaps in e-skills development within and between government departments, the education sector, business and civil society.
We are supporting the process of establishing the institute with an increased funding of R126.4 million over the medium term.
The DTPS established NEMISA which today has community labs, we also have the MIC SETA for workplace ICT skills training and all these innovative ideas are informed by the realization that, broadband roll out and the deployment of all other connecting technologies, require a skilled society for rapid uptake and possible contribution to the sector through the deployment of local content and many other forms of innovation.
For our skills pipe line to yield the desired ultimate goals, priority skills should be directly linked to categories under environment, socio-cultural and economy. The e-skills revolution is another opportunity for us as a country to meet the country’s set targets for the number of disabled people who should be employed in each and every organization. All our technology tools can be designed to compensate all forms of disabilities. We have to work closely with the umbrella body of disabled people, as this body has a wealth of knowledge in terms of their members’ needs so as to be able to function effectively.
Also as a sector, we have to generously massify the techno-girl program as per the company size. This program serves as a transformative agenda, as it prepares girls to meet requirements in faculties like engineering, science and technology. The programme is an effective transformation tool as it prepares young girls to be experts in computer science, software development and many other related subjects.
Compatriots, in this financial year we have made an allocation of R95.6 million for Policy Research and Capacity Development.
Our SA Connect Policy has identified human capital development as a key success factor in ensuring social and economic inclusion in the Information Society and knowledge-economy. Six percent of the budget in each organization should be earmarked for skills. Awareness about ICTs have shown that rapid deployment of technologies to communities are not an end on its own. What is needed is a shared dynamic skilling program, which puts trainees in a pipeline, from acquiring basic computer skills to advanced skills for accessing internet economies.
We are in discussion with the Departments of Labour, Public Service Administration, Higher Education and Training amongst others. In our discussions issues which are being addressed includes: e-Education to drive a digital the economy, investment in the R&D and skills for knowledge economy, Internet connectivity for rural economy to stimulate growth and opportunities for entrepreneurship and the development local skills for knowledge economy.
Connectivity for Dealing with the Triple Challenge: Inequality, Poverty and Unemployment
During this medium term, one of our key focus areas will be the ongoing rollout of South Africa Connect, the department’s broadband policy. We have put aside a funding of R500 million with a clear bias towards connecting under-serviced areas, prioritizing schools, health facilities and other government institutions.
The costs of a digital divide are incalculable. Prevalent research studies show that Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) are laden with economic and social opportunities, of which once unleashed herald increased country competitiveness, economic growth and improved human development results.
Broadband is a widely recognized catalyst for socio-economic development and research has discovered that there is a positive correlation between the high penetration of broadband services and the socio-economic development. For example, 10% of broadband penetration will on average contribute about 1.3% of economic growth.
The country’s vision 2030, the National Development Plan (NDP) has two time-bound ICT-related goals for Government, i.e. :
a) 100% broadband penetration by 2020, and
b) the adoption of a full e-Government approach by 2030.
The NDP also envisages a “seamless information infrastructure to meet the needs of citizens, business and the public sector, providing access to the wide range of services required for effective economic and social participation – at a cost and quality at least equal to South Africa’s competitors”.
The Use of ICTs to Attain the Sustainable Development Goals
The United Nations (UN) Heads of States have at a high-level meeting of the UN General Assembly in December last year, reaffirmed their commitment to utilize Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) as an essential tool for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Already the International Télécommunications Union (ITU) has begun work to link the World Summit on Information Society action lines and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
SDG 5, speaks to achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls, is directly linked to the WSIS Action Lines C1, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. Governments have the important role of creating an enabling environment that is safe and secured and inspires confidence amongst women.
Ilitha Labantu and PWMSA will be offered training on the interlinkages between WSIS Action Lines and the SDGs with the ICTs to harness the cross-cutting potential of ICTs as a driver for development and socio-economic growth.
In this regard, as part of our inclusive digital agenda, we will pursue multi-stakeholder relationships with various research bodies such as the Internet Society. This will be to ensure that women from our communities acquire the necessary digital skills and benefit from the educational opportunities from our own home-grown agencies like NEMISA and other Universities of Technology thus fostering long-term partnerships with employees, entrepreneurs, facilitating SME opportunities and economic growth.
Sustainable SME Business Development.
Chairperson we have a responsibility to ensure growth of our ICT SMEs, we have set aside R13 million for the SME Development. Linking the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS), action lines and sustainable development goals, we all have to come to the table and support women owned SMEs. This is an opportunity for all of us to collaborate and integrate our women empowerment programmes. The Post Office, with its foot print throughout the country, including the most remote rural communities, could be used to ease the burden in the SME distribution channels, by focusing on specifics like e-agriculture, linking it with e-health, e-financial services and poverty reduction.
What we see emerging at all spheres of government whereby there are ICT hubs which support connectivity as well as SME development is as a result of government’s concerted effort that our people must be connected.
The multi-stakeholder approach allows all of us to bring our expertise, in a step up program for promoting gender equality and mainstreaming in technology. The ITU has made this one of its programs working in partnership with UN Women, under a programme called GEM-TECH. Our success could be a lasting memorization of the life and work of MAMA AFRICA in technology, Dr. Ivy Matsepe-Cassaburi who left a strong brand that ICTs are not only the privilege of the elite but are critical tools for connecting women to all opportunities commonly enjoyed by the few in affluent areas of our society.
The Department has brought a special impetus to our townships by assisting municipalities to increase the number of Wi-Fi hotspot in the neighborhoods where people gather for other functions like sports fields, women’s resource centers and libraries and even the bus stops. Tangible uptake includes social, economic and environmental benefits such as sharpening ICT digital skills, facilitating easy access to research and information as well as promotion of innovation and creativity on-line, fostering inclusivity on a digital platform. Harmful sites are blocked to ensure that pubic Wi-Fi is not abused or harmful to users of different ages.
I have Mandisa from Ilitha Labantu and women from the PWMSA sitting in the gallery who have active users of Wi-Fi hotspots to access markets and a diverse wealth of information at their fingertips.
Smart Cities and villages with abundance of Wi-Fi hotspots are improving the lives of our citizens who are using the internet to carry out everyday tasks. It is also cutting down on previously time-consuming activities such as application of smart ID cards, filing tax returns, and conducting on-line registration for cars and business. We are also striving for a seamless digital economy ranging from access to public transportation timetables, monitoring of traffic flow, weather services, waste management and efficient energy and water consumption. The internet isn’t just about technology, it’s about making life easier and taking on board the human factor in every organization and community. We want to strive for citizen satisfaction and a cohesive society.
Online Security for the Youth, Children and Women
Young people and women face a myriad of challenges online but also have a number of opportunities available to them if well supported and guided. The Department has developed three sector-specific strategies to coordinate our sector and state machinery effort in the development and empowerment of our young people and women namely: Youth Development and ICT Strategy, Children Empowerment and ICT Strategy, and Gender Mainstreaming and ICT Strategy.
As part of the implementation of the Children Empowerment and ICT Strategy and in our quest to lead and contribute towards ensuring the safety of our young people online, we will engage the Department of Social Development (DSD), National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) and other relevant stakeholders to develop an ICT National Mainstreaming Programme which is envisaged to culminate into an ICT Summit aimed to achieve amongst others;
1. Development of the comprehensive Child Online Protection Programme.
2. Research programmes on cyber bullying, social cohesion, online behavior and parents support.
Transformation in the ICT Sector
The excess of policies and legislation was promulgated under the Apartheid regime to deny black people access to economic productive resources and skills. In order to change all this, courageous and consistent interventions are required to address the past imbalances. It is with this in mind that the Department has put in place the Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment ICT Sector Codes.
The Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services established the Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) ICT Sector Council on 24 September 2015 after obtaining Cabinet endorsement of the 16 member appointed Councilors.
Through our monitoring and evaluation we ensure that the codes are adhered to.
A great feat achieved by the ICT B-BBEE Sector Council was on its successful compilation and submission of the first Annual ICT Sector Monitoring Report to assess the implementation of Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment in the ICT Sector. I commend the Council and its leadership on this achievement despite an absence of any guidelines on the status of transformation in the ICT Sector and the limited time that it had to put the report together.
ICT Research and Development
We are in the “4th Industrial Revolution” ¬and this is an opportunity for us to find solutions to an inclusive developmental agenda for our people. Countries that have successfully harnessed the potential for socio-economic development from ICT have done so through deliberate strategies that promote domestic R&D, innovation and commercialization of new ICT products and services. These strategies recognize the complementary role of government, the research community and industry and promote what has been labelled “triple helix collaboration”. The WEF states that “emerging and developing economies need to build their resilience against turbulence in the markets and foster their innovation potential in order to sustain rapid economic growth. Against this backdrop, ICTs - in their role as key enablers of innovation and new employment opportunities - are drawing more attention than ever before. As the benefits of ICTs increasingly materialize into tangible assets, building and strengthening digital ecosystems becomes increasingly important.”
We are working closely with the Department of Trade and Industry to ensure that some of their Industrial Development Zones are earmarked for ICTs.
We are conscious of the fact that the speedy finalization and alignment of the SOCs is critical in ensuring that the Department delivers on its mandate. With the able guidance of the Portfolio Committee most of our SOCs have made significant strides.
We will continue to work very closely with our multi stakeholders for sustainable and inclusive development and growth of our economy. We thank the Acting Director General, Mr Mjwara and all the officials for their dedication to the success of the department.
I Thank You.