Address by the Minister of Communications Ayanda Dlodlo (MP) during the panel session on the Fourth Industrial Revolution at The SADC ICT Ministerial Meeting, Fairmont Zimbali Resort
SADC Ministers of Communications and Information and Communication Technologies
Senior Government Officials
Senior Representatives from International, Continental and Regional Bodies
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my privilege on behalf of the government and people of South Africa to extend a warm South African welcome to ministers from across the SADC region and various stakeholders from the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sector joining us todays.
We gather here to deliberate on how we can take our people and region forward on the expectant wave of the Fourth Industrial Revolution that is intrinsically linked to ICT advances. The programme is set for robust engagements and discussion.
Last month we celebrated Women’s Month in honour of our nation’s many brave and outstanding women in the ICT sector women are becoming a driving force.
MTN held its annual awards and a few outstanding women in the ICT sector were recognised for their achievements and contributions. One of those women is here with us today.
I would therefore like to take to opportunity to congratulate the winners in the various categories during the recent 2017 MTN Women in ICT – Partnership for Change Awards who are helping push the boundaries in the sector.
They include Carol Thomas for the Leadership Recognition Award, Rene Pearson for the Innovator Recognition Award, Matau Ramapuputla for the SME Recognition Award, Charmaine Houvet for the Ministerial Recognition Award and Dr HF Swanepoel for the Lifetime Achiever Recognition Award.
I am particularly pleased that you join us at this special time when our country is marking the start of Heritage Month in the celebration of our nation’s unique cultures and diverse heritage. This year our celebration is held under the theme: “The Year of OR Tambo: Celebrating Our Liberation Heritage and Democracy”.
Our Heritage Month celebration coincides with the centenary year of struggle stalwart Oliver Reginald Tambo. O R Tambo was instrumental in rallying support, assistance and solidarity against the oppression of colonialism and apartheid on the continent.
He mobilised and united the national, continental and international forces in sustained action that ultimately led to our freedom. He famously said: “The fight for freedom must go on until it is won, until our country is free and happy and peaceful as part of the community of man, we cannot rest.”
We remember and celebrate our liberation hero who through his life’s work helped shaped our country’s vision, mission and value system. I am certain this outstanding revolutionary and internationalist would be proud to see us from across the region gathered together under the unified banner of SADC to ensure our citizens benefit from our work in the ICT sector.
As part of our heritage celebrations we will over the month also focus on the liberation heritage route and honour the brave men and women who fought against apartheid. For South Africans it is an opportunity to learn more about the sacrifices made by our struggle icons so we can live in a democratic South Africa.
The Liberation Heritage Route is a network of sites, places, people and stories showing different periods of the struggle for liberation. In future it will extend into neighbouring countries to share the role which your countries played in our fight for liberation.
The support of the frontline states in Southern Africa were critical to the achievement of the democracy we are enjoying today. We are eternally grateful for the support you provided during our historic struggle for freedom and liberation.
In honour of these deep rooted ties, let us continue to work together for the benefit of all people in our region as we bring the advances of information communication and technology alive to them.
There is no doubt that information and communication technologies are transforming the way we live, work, learn and communicate. It informs and shapes our modes of communication. Our thinking and our interaction is transformed.
In our various sessions we will take stock of the progress we have made as a region in advancing ICTs. There has been strong inroads into the sector that has been supported by a number of ground breaking initiatives. Many of these initiatives are spearheaded by the very people in this room. It includes amongst many others:
- Internet for All Initiatives that aims to connect all unconnected SADC citizen;
- Broadcast digital migration in the region is helping free up additional bandwidth
- The Smart Africa Initiative uses technology to address our development challenges,
- African Internet Exchange System (AXIS) which aims to build a strong internet connectivity in Africa.
- ITU Connect 2020 to allow for affordable and universal broadband access in the SADC region.
Despite the good progress we have made as a region, communications infrastructure and services particularly in rural, peri-urban and township areas is still not where we would like it to be.
Unfortunately even today we live in a society where too many of our citizens are still denied access to information and the life changing benefits it brings. Of SADC’s population of 300 million people, only 16,3% of the population are using the internet compared to a penetration of 47% globally.
In our digital age of life changing technologies, data is the new currency. It opens the doors to communication, education and employment opportunities.
The increasing high cost of data drives up the cost of communication and restricts access, particularly for our young people who use mobile applications to stay in touch, access services and information.
In South Africa we are probing the high cost of mobile data through our competition authorities.
We are doing so because we see wireless communication as a critical factor in driving the economy forward. We also recognise that data will be a driver of many of the innovations that we have seen in the 21st century onwards.
The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa is also working on mechanisms to regulate the expiry of data bundles. Initial interventions will ensure provisions that data bundles do not automatically expire after 30 days but have a cascading scale.
We must work to ensure that there should be no digital divide in skills between disadvantaged and advantaged children and youth. Let us boost our efforts around drawing in all our people into the benefits of technology.
Our task in the coming days is to break through the digital divide so that all our citizens, in particular our young people, can equally be part of the Fourth Industrial revolution.
It is set to fundamentally alter the way we live, work and relate to one another. It brings with it exciting new opportunity that can help leapfrog our region economically and socially.
Through our work here we must establish communications systems that are accessible, affordable, efficient, reliable, that move at a pace faster than the evolution of technology and are of a high quality. These systems must be fully integrated to meet the diverse requirements and to ensure connectivity to the citizens of the SADC region.
Your discussions on the latest developments within the communications industry, including broadcasting, media, telecommunications and information technology and how these affect business and society is also vitally important.
Through our robust engagements here we will ensure the ultimate attainment goals of regional economic integration, poverty alleviation, bridging the inequality gap and Industrialisation.
The programme over the next two days also aims to transform the SADC region into an information and knowledge-based economy. Through greater access to ICTs infrastructure, applications and services more of our citizens can be integrated in social, political and economic activities.
Information Communication Technology and applications are pertinent to address our socio-economic issues, ensure an improved quality of life and creation of wealth. Our deliberations must explore how we can leverage the potential of this powerful sector’ to move the region forward.
How can information communication technology improve educational and health delivery in our countries? What role can it play in combating crime and corruption or supporting rural development? What opportunities will be unearthed in this process that will benefit our children so that the digital dividend can be a benefit to all.
Let us create platforms for citizens to access information, education and cultural content in the language or languages of their choice.
We must design ICT infrastructure that allows more people to access to the huge variety of information, services, and technologies offered by business, government, and local communities.
Let us use the power of information communication technology to develop innovative ways to communicate directly with our people. This needs to be done in a cost effective manner so that price does not become a barrier to access information.
I believe that the use of information communication technology will assist us in addressing our regional priorities. In doing so it will foster greater innovation and grow our ICT space; and importantly help create jobs.
It is about leveraging the power of broadband technologies to make South Africa an even a better place to live in. An impressive story is the growth of wireless local area networks (WLAN) or Wi-Fi, globally.
In the absence of Wi-Fi for instance, an estimated 150,000 to 450,000 new radio base stations would be needed to cope with smartphone traffic an investment of between 30 and 93 billion dollars.
Creating E-Content to ignite the Economy of Africa
In building the Inclusive Information Society, care should be taken not to perpetuate the domination of nations of the world by certain languages and cultures.
A big challenge that we have currently is that the dominant languages and culture in terms of the content available on ICTs is from the West. Much of the available content and services are still neither locally relevant nor available in local languages to create better trade opportunities for business. Only about 5 % of the over 2000 African languages, which represent two-thirds of all global languages, can be found online.
While this is understandable as a historical matter, in ensuring that the Information Society is fair, just and contributes to a better world, more effort will need to be exerted to ensure that content available on the ICTs is relevant and appropriate to all communities, and also available in their languages. At the same time, there is evidence that speakers of African languages are increasingly claiming their space and this will ensure that all communities feel part of this global Information Society.
Statistics on broadband
A number of studies have pointed to a strong positive relationship between technological uptake and development in communities and therefore countries. As long ago as 2001, the United Nations’ Human Development Report, asserted that ‘technological change accounts for a large portion of differences in growth rates’ (between countries) and that technology, in particular ICT, could enable development.
More recently a World Bank research found that a country could increase economic growth by 1.4 per cent for every 10 per cent increase in broadband penetration.
Today, of the 146 governments that have adopted or are planning to adopt a national policy, strategy or plan to promote broadband, 70 per cent are from developing countries. Furthermore, around 35 per cent of countries have included broadband in their universal access/service definitions and these numbers are expected to increase further. To recall the target set by the Broadband Commission for Digital Development by 2015 all countries should have included broadband in their national ICT policy or plan.
The SADC region is filled with promise, and in our relatively young and determined population we have abundant human capital to drive our future. Together with the energy of our young people and empowering them with the right skills and technology we can place our region on a new trajectory.
I wish you all success in your engagements as our programme unfold. Thank you for your willingness to ensure technology play the important role of improving the lives of our people and the prospects of our region.