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Address by the Minister of Communications & Digital Technologies, Ms Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams at the Digital Economy Summit

media statement banner amended05 JULY 2019
His Excellency, President Cyril Ramaphosa
Former President Kgalema Monthlanthe
Premier of Gauteng, David Makhura
North West Premier, Prof Job Mokgoro
Deputy Ministers led by DM Pinky Kekana and MECs present
My dear sister and counterpart from ZIMBABWE, Hon Monica Mutsvanga
Deputy Chairperson and Commissioners of the Presidential Commission on the 4IR
Founding partners of the 4IRSA
International Guest Speakers
Captains of the Industry
Members of the media
Soldiers of the 4IR Army
My husband Mr Thato Abrahams
Good Morning.
What an honour and privilege to be in your midst this morning as we kickstart a wide-ranging societal dialogue on the challenges and opportunities presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).
For the first time, guided by research from universities and other national research institutions, South Africa convenes to stimulate and curate a coherent national action plan that galvanises industry, labour, academia, the public sector and society.
We therefore appreciate the partnership between 4IRSA and government in hosting this historic event. It is initiatives such as this that are crucial in guiding South Africa’s readiness for the 4th Industrial Revolution.
Distinguished guests,
This summit confirms our view as the Ministry that as we navigate the 4IR, there is a need for Coordination of efforts and a more concerted Collaboration between government, public entities, the private sector, academia and civil society; amongst others.
A few days ago, Professor Tshilidzi Marwala penned an opinion piece, highlighting the importance of synchronising our national response to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. He said, and I quote:
“For us to succeed in this task of developing a national strategy on the 4IR, we will need to synchronise all activities that are happening in South Africa around
the 4IR. For example, it will be premature for a government department to come up with its own strategy on the 4IR without the benefit of the recommendations of the PC4IR. Equally, it will be premature for industry to develop its own strategy on the 4IR without coordinating with the work of the PC4IR…”
We are therefore encouraged that the 4IRSA partnership will utilise this summit to handover the research report to the Presidential Commission on the 4IR which is mandated to advise government on policies, develop a framework for implementation of a multi-sectoral 4IR strategy; coordinate, monitor and evaluate multi-sectoral initiatives that will position South Africa as a globally competitive player in 4IR.
Therefore, this report is but one of the strategic documents that will serve as a base for the Commission in developing a coordinated national strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Distinguished guests,
In the Investment Summit that was held in October 2018, President Cyril Ramaphosa called for local and international companies to expand existing operations in the country or establish new ones.
Mr President,
I am pleased to report to you that the industry is indeed responding. To this end, Facebook recently announced the building of an undersea cable - Simba, which would link up with beachheads in several countries on the continent’s eastern, western and Mediterranean coasts.
Google also announced that it is fully funding its 14th undersea cable, Equiano from Portugal down the west coast of the continent to Cape Town, with multiple landing points at countries along the coast.
Further, IOX announced the launch of its Cable System, which is the first submarine system to connect Mauritius to Rodrigues, with onward connectivity to South Africa and India to the rest of the world.
Amazon Web Services has committed to making a major investment in South Africa through a Cloud Computing hyper scale zone in Western Cape consisting of three availability zones– Atlantic Hill on the West Coast, Khayelitsha (Film Studio) and Brackenfell. The hyper scale data centre will enable AWS customers in Sub Saharan Africa to have dedicated, reliable and high bandwidth access to AWS’ Cloud Computing infrastructure and services; as well as connectivity to the Amazon Global Network of Hyper scale Cloud Computing zones.
Earlier this year, Microsoft announced the opening of new enterprise-grade datacentre regions in Africa, ensuring world-class cloud infrastructure that will power emerging cloud, AI and edge computing innovations across the continent. In South Africa, the new cloud regions are in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Indeed Mr President whilst we are pleased by the positive industry response, it is not enough!
We therefore seek to consolidate all these investments from both local and international companies into a concise report so that when we mark the first year since the investment conference, there are milestones and concrete targets that we are working towards.
Distinguished guests,
A recent study by the World Economy Forum and Accenture estimates that investment in digital transformation of government and industry in South Africa would result in an economy wide value of R5 trillion. More specifically, this economic value addition would result in roughly 4 million new jobs.
This projected enormous value to society and government, as well as the projected employment stands to contribute significantly to our economic growth and tackling the triple challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment.
Using the latest digital technologies and platforms, South Africa also stands to transform the outlook of our economy by ensuring that government services, trade, banking and infrastructure delivery are carried out in a smart and efficient manner.
The study puts forth that the digital transformation of government services alone would contribute about R2 trillion of the overall potential country value addition. This includes public services such as public infrastructure, public administration and health care.
Further, the study estimates that the contribution of economic sectors such a finance, agriculture, manufacturing, consumer services, metals and mining, telecoms and media would have a combined effect in terms value addition of over R3.6 trillion to the national economy.
In order to realise this value, as a country, we have to invest in new technologies.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Our role as government in all of these exciting trends is that of an enabler - from a policy, legislative and regulatory perspective. With all these instruments, we seek to coordinate and facilitate an inclusive growth that will benefit all our people.
In the last 25 years, we have moved our country from an era dominated by a monopoly fixed line network that catered for a few, where the central commodity was voice. We have now entered a modern, diverse, Fourth Industrial Revolution era that is characterised by a plurality of players - and where data is the new commodity.
Through government policies and legislative instruments, we have pushed the boundaries and managed to transform the apartheid telecommunications sector into a world-class fundamental pillar of the emerging digital economy.
Going forward, we will finalise the review of key policy frameworks such as the Electronic Communications Amendment Bill in order to make them responsive and adaptive to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Further, and as announced by President Ramaphosa in his State of the Nation Address, we will soon issue a policy directive to enable ICASA to license high demand spectrum. This directive will also provide a legal framework for the allocation of spectrum to the private sector and other industry stakeholders.
Distinguished guests,
As the international ICT community prepares for the World Radio Conference that will be held in Egypt in October 2019, South Africa is actively participating in the discussions in SADC, Africa and International Fora to ensure that this time we are not left behind and do not delay our people and country the meaningful role they can play as 5G is not only Telecomms based but cuts across all sectors.
Programme Director,
The Ministry of Communications and Digital Technologies has taken a conscious decision that at the heart of the 4IR conversation, is a people centred response that speaks to jobs, skills and broad economic participation.
As such, we have endeavoured to ensure that skills development is an important pillar to position the nation for the 4IR.
To this end, we recently commissioned a digital skills study that revealed that skills in areas such Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Cybersecurity, Digital Communications, Blockchain, Cryptography, Digital Modelling, Machine Learning, Mechatronics and Cloud computing; will equip South Africans for future occupations.
Harvard economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz argued that “inequality is a race between education and technology.” This basically means that we should not allow technology evolution to be so rapid that education is unable to keep up as that will only intensify inequality.
That is why, we have developed initiatives such as “Building a capable 4IR Army” programme to ensure that our communities, especially the youth, are equipped to take advantage of new digital technologies, unlock future jobs and drive competitiveness.
This includes skills development and capacity development initiatives aimed at ensuring that, amongst others, by 2030, one million young people are trained in data science and related skills.
To ensure inclusive growth in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we are implementing the ICT SMME Support Strategy, to support black SMMEs and ensure their full participation in the digital economy ecosystem.
Mr President,
It is my distinct pleasure to inform you that as we conduct this inaugural Digital Economy Summit in Johannesburg, that as a true showcase of technological innovation, the Ministry collaborated with the Premier of North West, Prof. Job Mokgoro, Nokia and Vodacom to replicate this event and enact a first-of-its-kind holographic projection in Rustenburg.
Mr President you are the first Head of State that is projected live utilising 3D holographic technology, a move that signifies our readiness to cement South Africa’s position as a leader in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Indeed, with the emergence of new technologies, events such as this will become common cause, thereby allowing more of our communities, notwithstanding geographical location, to experience events “Live” where they previously would not have had the access or means to partake in such events.
Mr President it was on this day that Tsietsi Mashinini departed this world mysteriously. It was also on this day that the Governing Party elected former President Mandela as its President in 1991. On this same day I have the pleasure of inviting you to give marching orders to 4IR Army.
Your Excellency, SA and the world awaits your address.