Speech by the Deputy Minister of the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Honourable Prof. Hlengiwe Mkhize
During the Launch of the Northern Cape Lwazi ICT Digital Training for Socio-Economic Development
At Phatsimang TVET College
24 March 2017
Theme – “Using ICTs to Combat Social Ills Facing Women and Girls”
Thank you very much MEC, Pauline Williams for an elaborate introduction. Initially I did not want much to be said about what I have done or where I come from beyond my current government positions, but looking at young people in the audience, I believe it is our responsibility to share openly about the journey that we have been through in our liberation struggles. If we don’t tell our stories, young people might start believing that to achieve you have to take short cuts.
When we embarked on struggles against the apartheid system, it was like a dream. The system of discrimination was very strong and powerful and we were young, poor and we knew nothing. You know sometimes I reflect with people from my office and say I can’t even remember what we used to eat, but we had our own circles. We would go around Soweto and buy something to cook and discuss politics, even though we had nothing. What was important was that we had a vision quite early in life which was that one day we would stand up and count for something. We were determined to fight the system irrespective of the consequences. It could have been death, disappearance or imprisonment. Today, we are commemorating human rights month in democracy in partnership with the private sector. I think that we have a good story to tell because against all odds, we proved that sometimes it is possible to balance your life. I remember even when studying, sometimes we would abandon everything because of the campaigns that the MEC is talking about. I don’t know how many times, I had almost completed my PHD, but it would disappear when the police raided us. We did not have computers so we would not have the work saved and that meant that we would have to start all over again. Sometimes we would be given an assignment in pursuit of the struggles for liberation and we complied. There was no resistance, no hash tag, we took instructions as given. If the instruction was that you have to go and create awareness and campaign for the release of Mandela from this place to this place you would do exactly that.
We are launching the Northern Cape Lwazi ICT Digital Training for Socio-Economic Development, under the theme: “Using ICTs to combat Social Ills Facing Women and Girls” We are doing this during an important year when we celebrate the 100 years of President OR Tambo. We all appreciate him as we are in this digitization era and connectivity.
President OR Tambo stands out amongst all our leaders because of his astuteness in mobilizing the world for our liberation.
He had an ability to talk to the whole world to understand the situation in South Africa which he did with passion, commitment and with success.
“We must do away with inferior education, youth unemployment…. and all the other injustices of the past.”
These were the words of Cde Oliver Tambo to the South African youth during the 15th anniversary of June 16th in 1991.This statement describes his ideals as a leader.
There are values that we need to share with young people, not only that he was the president of the ANC and the honourary president of the ANC youth league, but mainly because whatever he did, he did it with humility and dignity and people listened to him. His ability to convince the whole world is always appreciated, hence we said, it always helps us to focus on unity, national unity which is our strength as South Africa. We should stick to those values and principles of deep respect and love for each other and really being able to take each other’s rights seriously, we will go a long way.
So today we are focusing on the Use of ICT’s for socio-economic empowerment. In our case we have decided to use these gadgets for schools, communities, colleges like these and sometimes youth centers, but the most important thing is to make sure that people are trained. In this province, I am sure that you have 80 percent mobile broadband penetration, but many people use a mobile phone like a fixed line and if you go to east Africa, they use the phone for selling flowers as far as Netherlands, and you hear women saying that I drove the truck myself when I got an order after taking pictures and posting the on social media.
It’s important to know these technologies. We have to use them for more than just social aspects and for our own development.
All these things are new opportunities that we access through these gadgets
As government we have serious commitments to the National Development Plan that by 2020 we should have universal access where almost each and every South African should be connected and should be able to work on the internet.
Even for our post office, the future is digital. People should go there to access the internet and to be able to send applications. It should have data all over so that if you want information on any aspect of government, you should be able to be to go to the post office to do it. Government is addressing the issues of universal access in which we extend the mandate of the postal outlets and define the role they can play in extending access and providing digital assistance programmes. The postal network remains one of the most extensive infrastructure networks with vast distribution capacity and therefore lends itself as a strategic platform through which citizens and businesses can access general ICT services.
To our private sector, I think that it is important to realize that what you initially do as simply connecting the institutions of learning, is actually a huge step taken in fighting a big problem of high rates of unemployment. Through the use of technologies, we want to reduce the number of people who are unemployed. If you are able to come up with your own cv, be able to post it, some people are able to pick you up and say that we are looking for a person with that caliber and qualities so we are hoping that with the use of these gadgets we will be able to absorb as many young people who are skilled even if you are old, but are skilled you have an opportunity to be absorbed. Broadband rollout is more than just a political trip or journey. It is a serious journey of ensuring that we move away from talking about unemployed graduates.
We as a department came up with a policy which looked at different aspects of connectivity and we pulled all of them together including broadcasting and digital migration issues. We looked at chapter by chapter on how will it be done and when.
We have even come up with a strategy, where people have to be trained to be able to work online. Digital literacy programmes forms part of the policy framework on universal service and access. Concerted effort must be put on ensuring the ability of different groups of people in our society to not only access services and acquire information and data but also to use the information and data to enhance the quality of their lives.
We don’t want to assume that once you have access to the internet, you will be able utilize it successfully and look for information and be able to read far more that what your teacher has given you. The use of the internet is very important for improving education so that people acquire more knowledge and they come out of these colleges more knowledgeable and above everything. These colleges are not meant to compete with universities, but they are meant to sharpen your skills.
I mentioned e-strategy which is a broad strategy that cuts across all sectors and everything that you need to learn about, but also e-government is the most important aspect of our work .We are in a journey of modernizing our government. A mordent government puts information out there for anyone to access it. South Africa is a signatory in the Open Government Forum Partnerships initiatives since 2011. It is really about saying that everything that government wants to give people should be done in an open and transparent manner and information centers should be all over even in the churches. We should be able to get information.
Government, I have seen how some provinces have moved ahead and linked it with e-governance. If as governments we are not able to inform people about opportunities, including our state owned entities like the post office to say these are opportunities if you want to do business with the post office this is what you do then we will be failing our people.
We are in an era where everyone talks about radical economic transformation, young and old. We cannot sit here and pretend that it will be enough that once they know how to use the gadgets. What is important is to look more at more people who will be able to participate in the economic aspects of the ICT’s as small suppliers.
There are many things that we are looking at, like have local ICT labs where young people can help the elderly as well to be connected. Following the approval of the Broadband Policy we have been hard at work ensuring that rural communities are connected and also reaps benefits. Each area we connected we ensured that we ensured that we transform the facility connected into a localized ICT Hubs. This then means that this should be a centre whereby young people especially girl children could be able to do amongst other:
• Learn coding skills
• Learn basic ICT skills
• Learn broadcasting skills
• Learn entrepreneurial skills
• Learn soft skills such as communication and management
• Prepare themselves for economic inclusion
• Learn to use ICT to combat social ills facing them
Those still in school, access maths and science curriculum
Since this is a community college, I want to emphasize a few things, community colleges become a hub for community development all over the world. They are not supposed to be closed to the community. Traditionally colleges were meant to teach, they were meant to do research, but also community developments.
We should ensure that there is continued learning
In terms of socio-cultural rights, we have a challenge in our communities, the rates of sexual assaults are too high. If you look at our constitution, the bill of rights, equality issues, generally it’s the values that are enshrined in it. Generally in our communities levels of sexual assaults are too high. The big question is are there opportunities of making use of these technologies help us to do things differently. That is the history of where Lwazi comes from. It was during 16 days of activism of no violence against women and child abuse. We went to Thlabane as usual hoping to create awareness, but the experiences of the police, ward councilors and everybody there, they said they need a special application to help deal with the issue. Communities need to start talking amongst themselves about issues that affect them and the patterns and practices of these crimes and how it affects the elderly, women and children.
Some of the social ills that we have to talk about is social media, most of it is about fashion. And many end up looking for blessers to keep up. We have to defend our dignity at all times and at all costs, in poverty and in need.
What saddens me is that these blessers really prey on college and university young women.
What I am saying is that we have to use the internet for the future where we are able important information and being part of things that are important for mordernising our villages and communities.
The Northern Cape also have the square kilometer array which is a hub. There are all sorts of opportunities that we are bringing to our disposal for the future.
Our first democratic President, Tata Nelson Mandela when giving a concluding address at the opening ceremony of the TELECOM 95 at 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”.
You are now benefitting for the future that Madiba spoke about as far back as 1995, but here we are today enjoying what he did not enjoy.
I thank you