SPEECH DELIVERED BY TELECOMMUNICATIONS AND POSTAL SERVICES MINISTER, DR SIYABONGA CWELE AT THE SOUTH AFRICAN 2017 SOUTHERN AFRICA TELECOMMUNICATION NETWORKS AND APPLICATIONS CONFERENCE (SATNAC) on 04 September 2017 in Barcelona, Spain
Program Director, Alphonzo Samuels
Telkom Chairperson, Mr Jabu Mabuza
Sponsors and Partners
Conference management and delegates
Ladies and gentlemen
It is a great pleasure and a privilege to address you at this 20th year anniversary of the Southern Africa Telecommunication Network and Applications Conference (SATNAC), under the conference theme "The New Digital Economy – How to Transform the Telco Networks.”
On behalf of the Government and the people of South Africa, allow me the latitude of congratulating Telkom for its unflinching and continued commitment to providing a platform for postgraduate students to showcase their research and test their work with peer groups. For the past two decades, this conference has been a celebration of research, thought leadership and innovation in the telecommunications industry.
The conference is taking place on a beautiful ship, cruising through some of the most historic locations such as Province, Nice, Florence, Naples and Rome. These cities had their share of disruptive technologies of the past. Rome, for example, revolutionised infrastructure when ancient Romans invented and built the first aqueducts in 312 BC. These aqueducts brought water into cities and towns that were not close to natural water sources. This supported the then main industries such as mines and farms. In essence, it was the first large scale economic enablement as people were no longer restricted to settle directly next to natural water source but could live and work wherever they wanted.
This year’s theme follows along the same line of innovative thinking – removing boarders and enabling business from anywhere. The digital economy presents an immense opportunity for the African continent. By engaging in the digital economy, we are no longer confined by our boarders and can show the rest of the world the wealth of knowledge and innovation in Africa.
Our future as a country will depend on our readiness in academic research, industrial development, artificial intelligence and the ability to embrace digital technologies. The telecommunications industry should be at the forefront of this storm of change, as an industry that is affected by the large-scale change in its environment as well as a driver of the digital evolution.
The growth of digital economy is dependent on the telecommunications industry ability, appetite and strategies in delivering ICT infrastructure and requisite applications. Creating dynamic and competitive economies from digital transformation is only possible if telecommunications companies are well prepared to take advantage of the transformation taking place in the lives of their consumers and businesses
Huge investment in ICT infrastructure, technology and interoperability by the telecommunications industry will underpin a colossal shift in information and capital flows through the global economy, while providing the building blocks for the rise of entirely new business models across industries.
In short, as the industry, we are the backbone and the enabler of the digital economy and new technologies such as e-commerce, mobile payments, data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT). We provide the fastest medium through which our continent connects to the rest of the world. That is why it is so vitally important for us to come together at event like this to discuss how we can innovate, disrupt and transform our industry to better serve the needs of an increasingly digital African population while still protecting our most vulnerable. As the industry, we should be planning and building the future networks and applications that will facilitate the IoT.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Governments all over the world have recognized and accepted that the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sector are increasingly becoming tools for facilitating radical socio-economic transformation and inclusive growth. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development defines inclusive growth as “economic growth that creates an opportunity for all segments of the population and distributes the dividends of increased prosperity, both in monetary and non-monetary terms, fairly across society”.
As we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), we should prioritise the elimination of the digital divide within and between our nations. This is critical in a country such as South Africa that comes from deep seated structural divides as a result of apartheid economy. High in our efforts will be to skill and reskill our workforce and ensure that we are globally competitive.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Back in 1998, the Presidential Review Commission on the transformation of the public service identified digital transformation as an essential tool. In this respect, all our policies decisions are geared at transforming the telecoms sector. This is reflected in the National Development Plan and the Integrated National ICT Policy White Paper.
Similarly, Telkom recognised that there is a desperate shortage of highly skilled engineers, computer scientists and related professionals in South Africa and as a result embarked on establishing a postgraduate research program which focused on developing high-level skills for the ICT sector.
The Telkom Centre for Excellence plays a critical role in enhancing the much-needed intellectual capacity to usher us to the 4IR. In the process of transforming the telecoms networks, we have to focus on developing the “future skills,” some of which are not yet in existence. One may ask: How do we prepare for something we don’t even fully understand? According to the World Economic Forum, “the ability to anticipate and prepare for future skills requirements, job content and the aggregate effect on employment is increasingly critical for businesses, governments, and individuals to fully seize the opportunities presented by these trends and to mitigate undesirable outcomes”.
It is critical for all of us to come together at events of this magnitude to discuss how we can innovate, disrupt, and transform our industry to serve better the needs of an increasingly digital African population.
I wish to reiterate the commitment of the South African government to strengthen our relationship with the sector, especially our ICT academicians who possess an insatiable desire to transform the ICT sector during this year of Oliver Reginald Tambo. President OR Tambo is the giant of the liberation of South Africa and destruction of the apartheid system, which was described by the United Nations as a crime against humanity. Tambo was a keen maths and science teacher.
As the government, we will continue using our policies and regulatory framework to hasten the creation of a “New Digital Economy”. In this respect, we have decided to form a National Fourth Industrial Commission to help us embrace and cope with the Digital Revolution.
I am delighted to have the opportunity to engage with you and look forward to participating in a constructive and vibrant discussion on how best to transform telecoms networks in a manner that achieves radical economic transformation. My wish is that 312 After Return we may say you contributed in making South Africa and our continent to leapfrog to be a global digital economy.
Once more, let me thank Telkom for hosting this premier event in our calendar. I may not be with you for the duration of the conference because I will be hosting the SADC ICT Ministers Meeting in Durban in the next 3 days, but I wish you every success in your deliberations
I thank you.