ICT Sector Crucial to SA Growth, jobs, safety, prosperity
South Africa should increase focus and investment on Information Communications Technology (ICT) sectors if it is to deliver on the national agenda for inclusive economic development, bridging the digital divide, sustainable job creation, dealing with inequality and ensuring safer communities from violent crime, brutality and abuse.
This was said by Deputy Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, who explained that beyond economic benefits, the ICT industry was uniquely positioned to help build a more socially sustainable future. She said the ICT sector was a crucial lever for South Africa as the country moves towards the fourth industrial revolution characterised by digital technology which is changing the way people live, work and run daily tasks.
Deputy Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams said the Department’s focus this year would be on skills upgrade for young people and women to position themselves for the fourth industrial revolution; strengthening and upgrading the country’s cybersecurity, bolster SMME in the ICT sector into which at least R20 million has been allocated this year; transform the Universal Service Fund into the Digital Fund; and strengthening of Digital economy
She made the remarks when delivering the Department’s 2017/18 financial year budget vote debate in Parliament recently, under the theme: ‘Fourth Industrial revolution and the continued pursuit of inclusive economic growth through ICTs: Investing in the youth,’ where she emphasised that the benefits of such an era would be meaningless if they did not empower marginalized sectors like the youth and women, and bolster SMME and community enterprises growth.
Deputy Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams highlighted another achievement of the previous year as the completion of the process to merge the National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa (NEMISA), the e-Skills Institute (eSI), and the Institute of Satellite Software Applications (ISSA) to form the Ikamva National e-Skills Institute (iNeSI) in order to coordinate and promote e-Skills in South Africa. She said over R126.4 million was availed for the project which has been completed and the iNeSI Bill will be submitted for Cabinet review to complete this process, and called on the private sector to be actively involved.
“The entity will further host the national e-Skills Summit this year. An amount of R49 million has been set aside for the e-skills programme and activities targeting the youth, women, SMMEs, people with disabilities in the eight priority broadband districts and National Health Insurance (NHI) sites,” she said.
Deputy Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams said they had developed programmes with local universities for post graduate and diploma courses in software development, business analytics and business intelligence - the first intake of learners which will number 5,040 will be this year. She also highlighted how 50 girl-leaners from the Eastern Cape will be trained on ICT innovations to benefit communities, which was part of the commemoration of the International Girls in ICT Day.
Deputy Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams said as part the recently concluded WEF Africa in Durban the Department announced South Africa’s adoption of the Internet for All which aims to bring millions of South Africans, especially those in rural areas, onto the internet for the first time through public-private partnership and will focus on addressing the barriers that prevent universal internet access, particularly to public schools, libraries, tribal offices, health centres and municipalities.
She said to that end the Department had forged partnerships with multinationals as follows:
Google to train 1.1. million South Africans on digital skills. 80 000 have been trained thus far; IBM to train on digital skills 5 million young South Africans over a 5-year period as part of the 25 million across Africa; Microsoft providing training to 1 million people from Gauteng as well as building Africa’s 1st digital hub; Cisco connecting 50 schools with smart technology called “Spark Board”; Ericson deploying digital labs for schools in Mpumalanga, KZN and Northern Cape; and Funding from UK Department for International Development (DFID) estimated at 15 million pounds (close to R300 million) The Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa will complete the entire O.R Tambo District Municipality broadband roll-out and R30 million has been allocated to tackle Nyandeni, Ngquza Hill, Port St Johns, Impendle Local Municipality and Umgungundlovu District Municipality.
Moreover, three strategies have been drafted for public comment namely the e-Strategy or Digital Strategy for South Africa; The e-Government Strategy; and the ICT SMME Support Strategy.
“I call upon all young people to empower themselves with ICT skills, irrespective of their field of study. Let us all develop a healthy relationship with ICTs and social media in order to empower ourselves and to network for developmental opportunities. The 4th Industrial Revolution requires that each one must be ICT literate,” she said.
Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams: Deputy Minister of Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services Vacancies