PRESIDENT CYRIL RAMAPHOSA LAUNCHES ITU WORLD 2018
Africa is open for business. These were the words of President Cyril Ramaphosa as he delivered the opening address at the ITU World, which is being hosted at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Conference Centre in Ethekwini.
“It is an honour as the government and the people of South Africa to host this event for the first time on the African continent, said president Ramaphosa. “For us, the ITU Telecom World provides a guide to the future. The deliberations that take place here concern the economy and society of tomorrow that we are building today.
“We are at the dawn of a digital revolution that will reshape the way we work, they way we live and the way we relate to each other. Technological change is proceeding at a pace far greater than anything humanity has experienced before. It is through forums like this that we are able not only to anticipate technological change, but also to harness it for the advancement of humanity.”
It is through bodies like ITU, said President Ramaphosa, that the world crafts a digital agenda for inclusivity, sustainability and development. “We have the means and the responsibility to direct the evolution of information and communications technology towards the achievement of a better life for all the peoples of the world.”
It is our task to ensure that the Fourth Industrial Revolution improves the human condition and that no one is left behind, he said. “It is our task to ensure that this digital revolution responds to the needs of the developing world. It must assist in overcoming unemployment, not exacerbate it. It must bridge the digital divide, not widen it.”
The fourth industrial revolution must employ the latest in communications technology and data analytics to solve some of the world’s greatest development challenges, said President Ramaphosa. “The decisions we make now, as individual countries and as a global collective, will determine whether the fourth Industrial Revolution is the opportunity that so many people anticipate or the threat that so many people fear.
“As our economies become increasingly dependent on information and communication techology, it is critical that governments work more closely with industry to maximise the value of digital innovations. It is equally critical that both government and industry develop effective collaborative relationships with the communities they are both expected to serve.”
Such relationships are required, he said for the accelerated rollout of broadband in areas that are generally seen as not being economically viable, yet which are vital for the viability of the economy. “The rapid expansion of broadband reach and accessibility is a priority in South Africa because it is a key determinant of economic inclusion.”
President Ramaphosa said there are currently 20 million South Africans who do not use the internet, for a range of reasons such as unaffordable data prices, lack of internet-enabled devices and lack of access. Yet, about 87% of households in South Africa have access to mobile phones, presenting us with a great opportunity to overcome digital exclusion and to drive inclusive growth and innovation.
“Government has recently decided to accelerate the licensing of the radio frequency spectrum in the 2.6Ghz, 700Mhz and 800Mhz bands to hasten the growth of mobile communications,” he said.
He also revealed that Government has already finalised consultations with the telecommunications industry and other stakeholders to ensure allocation of spectrum reduces barriers to entry, promotes competition and reduces costs to consumers. Following a Cabinet decision last month, the regulator ICASA is now preparing to licence available high demand spectrum.
President Ramaphosa announced that preparatory work to license service providers for 5G spectrum has begun. This is part of Government effort to build a smarter digital economy. “Earlier this year, we announced plans to establish a Digital Industrial Revolution Commission to ensure we are in a position to seize the opportunities of the rapid advances in information and communication technology. “
AFRICA CONTINENTAL FREE TRADE AREA
“Research shows that investment in ICTs results in such economic benefits as higher productivity, lower costs, new economic opportunities, job creation, innovation and increased trade. Information and communication technology also helps provide better services in health and education and strengthens social cohesion.
“Our work in this area coincides with agreement on the establishment of an African Continental Free Trade Area, which will create a single market of over a billion people. At the Plenipotentiary of the African Telecommunications Union held last month in Nairobi, South Africa was mandated to lead a five-country committee to coordinate the development of the continental response to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”