Speech by the Deputy Minister of the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Honourable Prof. Hlengiwe Mkhize
During IST Africa 2016 Conference
At Southern Sun Elangeni Hotel, Durban
Wednesday, 11 May 2016
Theme: "International Research and Innovation Cooperation"
Mr. Morten Moller, Senior Advisor to European Commission;
H.E. Martial De-Paul Ikounga, African Union Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology;
Ms. Anneline Morgan, Senior Technical Advisor, Southern African Development Community, Botswana;
Dr Setumo Mohapi, CEO, State Information Technology Agency, South Africa;
Mr. Barlow Manilal, CEO, Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), South Africa;
Dr Gansen Pillay, Deputy CEO, National Research Foundation, South Africa;
Representatives from African Universities;
Representatives from ICT Companies; and
Representatives from research institutions and SMMEs
Ladies and Gentlemen
IST-Africa 2016 focuses on the Role of ICT for Africa's Development and specifically on Applied ICT research in the areas of eHealth, Technology Enhanced Learning and ICT Skills, Digital Libraries, e-Infrastructures, eAgriculture, Societal Implications of Technology, International Cooperation, ICT4D and eGovernment. IST-Africa 2016 will provide a collegiate setting for presentations and discussions of national & regional developments, issues of concern and good practice models, and networking with peers.
Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have become the life-blood of the knowledge economy. Infrastructure is at the core of inclusive growth, a growth for all, a growth that creates jobs, reduces inequalities and offers opportunities to citizens. We can’t sustain quality education and job creation without access to basic necessities such as electricity, broadband and connectivity.
Africa is a youthful continent, expansion of connectivity to a large degree benefits the youth. About 42% of the African population is under 15 years and mobile services are increasingly playing a role in formal education and informal learning.
Our region, Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has been the fastest-growing region globally over the last five years, in terms of both unique subscribers and connections. By mid-2015, 200 million individuals across the region were accessing the internet through mobile devices, a figure that will almost double by 2020. Mobile based services offer a range of solutions to economic and social challenges faced by Sub-Saharan Africa, enabling access to essential services from education to healthcare and utilities.
A huge potential exists for African countries to take concerted efforts in building the requisite infrastructure and advanced skills in software engineering, project management, networking and creating an enabling legal and regulatory environment including laws for online transactions. All of these are a positive contribution to our development agenda.
The South African Information Society
The potential for information and communication technologies (ICTs) to promote socio-economic development is well understood and has been studied and documented by a number of international bodies such as the OECD, World Economic Forum (WEF), The World Bank and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). Amongst other interventions, the South African government has created an enabling policy environment for the development of reliable, secure and affordable ICT infrastructure as a foundation for economic and social development. Consequently, it is widely acknowledged that over the years, there has been a commendable pattern of rapid ICT diffusion and uptake throughout South Africa. Moreover, e-applications and e-services flourish.
In South Africa, the revolution started in 2003 after the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS)’s declaration, commonly known the Tunis Agenda, which included the need to harness ICTs for sustainable development. The WSIS process brought to light the interconnection between sustainable development and Internet governance, in part due to the fact that internet governance is a critical path to the evolution of the information society. Sustainable development cannot be conceived without global communications and knowledge exchange. Other African states are also on the drive for creating an inclusive information society.
In most industrialised countries the ICT sector is one of the largest in the economy, accounting for about 10 percent of contribution towards GDP. The challenge put forth by our President in 2014, is for the new Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS) to ensure that the country derives more value out of the booming information communications.
A concerted effort by all stakeholders towards building the internet economy will help us derive value from the telecommunications Infrastructure to enable us to contribute towards the 5% economic growth rate in our country.
South Africa’s Inclusive Developmental Policy - The National Development Plan (NDP)
The NDP is South Africa’s first genuine endeavour to develop a long and medium term plan aimed at accelerating the implementation of government policies. The plan sets out a vision 2030 for South Africa, with key targets to be met and identifies specific steps for implementation. It takes a strategic, wide-ranging view at the challenges and opportunities before us; and is based on an extensive consultation with the South African public. It is a plan for dealing with unemployment, inequality and poverty.
The NDP is an integrated approach to policy making, combining theory, evidence and practice with an aim of ensuring pragmatism and continuous learning in implementation and governance. It advocates a radical transformation in the economy within the context of a mixed economy. It calls for a strong and effective state that is able to intervene on behalf of the poor and marginalised in order to correct the historic imbalances of power and the accumulation of wealth. It proposes a dialogue between business, labour and government as a means towards ensuring investment, employment and growth.
Our targets, as set out in the National Development Plan are to achieve 100% broadband penetration by 2020 as well as transforming 70% of all front-line service to e-Service by 2019. This is a great opportunity for the private sector and institutions of higher learning to cement partnerships for improved outcomes which positively impacts people’s quality of life.
Importance of Connectivity in Every Society
The Internet has made it possible for anyone to share and create their own content, services, applications and innovations - and for citizens around the world to have access to a wide range of ideas, content, services and innovations. This has lowered the barriers to entry into the economy and extended the rights of access to information and freedom of expression for everyone.
It is crucial that the Internet is kept free, neutral and open if it is to continue to create opportunities for everyone to improve the quality of their lives. A crucial component of this is the introduction of a net neutrality framework to ensure that all Internet traffic is treated equally, without discrimination, restriction or interference, regardless of the sender, receiver, content, device, service, or application.
The Internet is an incredible, undoubted force for economic growth and social change. Not only has it enabled new forms of connectivity, but it has also provided an outlet for new forms of innovation, entrepreneurship and social good. The Internet has also proven to be a dynamic tool for stimulating economic growth in developing countries. The World Bank reported that a 10% increase in broadband correlates to a 1.38% increase in GDP growth.
The Internet also provides opportunities to pursue social and developmental objectives. In developing countries, the Internet is connecting remote populations to markets and strengthening the overall efficiency of service delivery particularly in areas such as health, education, livelihoods and financial inclusion, as well as creating access to government services for the most marginalised populations.
MAKING INTERNET CONNECTIVITY IN RURAL AREAS A PRIORITY
The South African government’s plan is 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.
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.” This was also reitirated in this year’s State of the Nation Address.
The eight districts listed above have deliberately left out districts in the Gauteng and the Western Cape provinces which have already gone far in terms of broadband rollout. 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.
We believe that our SA Connect Policy and Strategy will help the country with substantial growth in access to ICTs and their use, particularly mobile phones and the Internet. The goal of increased access to ICTs and use depends largely on our Broadband Plan Programme.
Over R700 million spread over three years has been allocated for the implementation of the SA Connect Broadband Policy. The policy rests upon four strategic pillars, which are: digital readiness; digital development; digital future and digital opportunity. The implementation of this policy will ensure that all government facilities such as health care centres, schools, libraries, all municipalities, post offices are connected with high speed internet.
INCREASING CONNECTIVITY IN AREAS ALREADY CONNECTED
Our government’s investment - coupled with private sector investment which we encourage - in network and IT infrastructure signals that South Africa is ready to leapfrog into the 21st century and to promote the digital opportunity that arises from broadband rollout. Partnering with the private sector in the implementation of SA Connect will provide us access to +/-180000 km of Fibre infrastructure. During the Phase 2 of SA Connect we intend to roll out a further 64000 Km of fibre infrastructure to provide the much needed backbone capacity for the planned Wireless expansion to our rural communities. In the big metro centres, we have invested R40 million towards increasing Wi-Fi coverage.
The South African ICT Research, Development And Innovation Space
Developments in science and technology are fundamentally altering the way people live, connect, communicate and transact, with profound effects on economic growth and development. The technology revolutions of the 21st century are emerging from entirely new sectors, based on microprocessors, telecommunications, biotechnology and nanotechnology. Products are transforming business practices across the economy, and the lives of all who have access to their effects. The most remarkable breakthroughs may be expected to come from the interaction of insights and applications arising when these technologies meet.
Access and application are critical. Science and technology are the differentiators between countries that are able to tackle poverty effectively by growing and developing their economies, and those that are not. The extent to which developing economies emerge as economic powerhouses depends on their ability to grasp and apply insights from science and technology and use them creatively. Innovation is the primary driver of technological growth and drives higher living standards.
Our Department of Science and Technology has developed and ICT Research, Development and Innovation Roadmap to support the country’s strategic objective of increasing the impact of ICTs on society and developing the economy. The Roadmap presents a vision that will enable South Africa to become a significant player in the global ICT arena. It provides a coherent framework and plan for South Africa’s future investment and planning in ICT research, development and innovation, as well as provide a single point of coordination of RDI activities through the envisaged Office of Digital Advantage.
Infrastructure to catalyse innovation: Digital Technology Hubs
International trends indicate that many countries have started to extend innovations beyond universities, state research institutions and private sector RDI. The move is towards bringing innovation at the disposal of SMMEs and young innovators. Increasingly, there is a significant shift in favour of digital hubs such as the United Kingdom’s Silicon Roundabout and Kenya’s iHub. In order to maximise and spread innovation across the country, there’s a need for technology hubs across the country.
Measurement elements for Information Society Development in South Africa
Noting the progress made and the gaps that remain, there is room for a decision making processes which continuously derive more efficient and effective interventions amid new technologies, to ensure that South Africa is established as an advanced Information Society and the Knowledge Economy permeates. Towards the ends, it is crucial that we have timeous, accurate and current data in order to set targets, monitor and evaluate policy outcomes.
A number of measurement challenges need to be addressed, especially the relative scarcity of ICT-related data and disperse measurement publication of research findings about the different dimensions of the ICT Ecosystems and Information Society, which challenges multi-stakeholder coherent efforts. We wish to applaud Statistics South Africa, for their support and inroads made towards ensuring the revision of ICT indicators and consolidation of ICT data dissemination products, such as the Household Series Volume VI on Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).
Therefore, to bolster ICT data production, supply and dissemination further, the DTPS endeavours to work with related parties to produce the South African Annual ICT Compendium of Indicators and Statistics Series data tool, which presents a succinct summary of a larger quantitative data to map the progression towards the desired state of the Information Society in South Africa as envisioned by year 2030 in the National Development Plan. Specifically, it will enclose time series indicators and data on measuring the different dimensions of the Information Society and Knowledge Economy, as collected from different sources, collated and brought together in a form of a data tool and an infographic publication.
In today’s fast moving, globalized and highly competitive ICT ecosystem, the ability to rapidly innovate is critical to the growth of a country, to its enterprises and also to its population’s social and economic wellbeing. At the heart of any innovation are those creative people who are motivated by a problem that needs solving, perhaps a process that could be more efficient, or a barrier that needs to be removed or broken down. However, many of these challenges are too big for any one individual, no matter how talented or motivated, to solve alone.
Therefore, collaboration, partnerships and dialogue are essential in order to help the ICT ecosystem grow and flourish. Often it is only by bringing people together, face to face, that a problem is even grasped, never mind addressed. Major players as well as governments and regulators need to take steps to actively foster innovation, and in so doing, to play their part in accelerating the development and scale of innovative solutions, driving industry growth. As the South African government, we appreciate and value platform such as the IST Africa 2016 Conference which brings together like-minded people to engage, debate and come up with ICT R&D and innovation interventions that will help move our African continent forward.
Working together as Further Education and Training Colleges, Universities, civil society and global development partners as encouraged by the NDP, we must advance the development of local ICT skills that will make South Africa and the continent globally competitive, facilitate economic and social inclusion and contribute to economic growth.
I thank you.