The new face of pol­icy

New com­mu­ni­ca­tions min­is­ter Yunus Car­rim took to a pub­lic plat­form last week along­side Google stal­warts. The right things were said.

Finweek English Edition - - TECHNOLOGY - Si­mon Din­gle

South Africa’s new Min­is­ter of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Yunus Car­rim, made one of his first publ ic ap­pear­ances last week at Google’s Big Tent in Jo­han­nes­burg. The event was one of many that Google hosts around the world to dis­cuss the im­pact of the In­ter­net on so­ci­ety. Car­rim shared the stage with Google VP Vint Cerf, who also played a pi­o­neer­ing role in the cre­ation of the In­ter­net with the work he did at the United States Depart­ment of De­fense Ad­vanced Re­search Projects Agency (DARPA) in the Seven­ties and Eight­ies.

Min­is­ter Car­rim re­cently re­placed MP Dina Pule, who was dis­grace­fully ousted from her post last month. This was one of his f irst ad­dresses to the tech­nol­ogy fra­ter­nity since tak­ing off ice.

Car­rim fo­cused on the op­por­tu­ni­ties brought by In­ter­net ac­cess and how South Africa has some catch­ing up to do.

“The In­ter­net econ­omy can re­duce the gap be­tween large and small busi­nesses. Cur­rently about 410 000 SMEs in South Africa have web­sites,” he said.

“The In­ter­net Mat­ters re­port by World Wide Worx in­di­cates that SMEs with an on­line pres­ence are more likely to be more prof­itable than those with­out. Of those with a web­site, 27% are strongly prof­itable, while only 11% of those with­out a web­site are. It is said that SMEs ac­count for 7.8m jobs in South Africa. It is sug­gested that 1.56m jobs would be in jeop­ardy were it not for their on­line pres­ence,” said Car­rim.

He added that the growth of the ‘Dig­i­tal Econ­omy’ in SA is sig­nif­i­cant, but that it does not ben­e­fit peo­ple eq­ui­tably.

“Cur­rently it stands at ap­prox­i­mately R59bn or 2% of South Africa’s GDP. Agri­cul­ture con­trib­utes 2.1% to our GDP. That might help to give a sense. E-com­merce is grow­ing at 30% a year and the po­ten­tial for ex­pan­sion is great when one con­sid­ers that more peo­ple are com­ing on­line as a re­sult of the in­crease in the use of smart­phones,” said Car­rim.

He said that the move to dig­i­tal ter­res­trial tele­vi­sion will make fur­ther pro­vi­sion for broad­band ac­cess and that an in­crease of jobs in the tech­nol­ogy sec­tor was also on the way.

The min­is­ter then out­lined a fo­cus on pol­icy and other mea­sures be­ing taken by Govern­ment to pro­mote In­ter­net ac­cess and stim­u­late busi­ness. Of course, we’ve heard this all be­fore. The big ques­tion is whether ef­fec­tive ex­e­cu­tion will fol­low be­fore he is pos­si­bly shifted as part of a 2014 post-elec­tion cabi­net shuff le.

Yunus Car­rim

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