Speech by the Honourable Minister Radhakrishna L Padayachie (Roy) on the celebration of World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal province
17 May 2011
ICT Industry Executives
Ladies and gentlemen
Today, 17 May has been declared by the United Nation’s specialised agency, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) as World Telecommunication and Information Society Day. The theme for this year is “Better life in rural communities with ICTs”.
We are therefore pleased to join the world in celebrating this special day, dedicating our attention and efforts to the plight of our people living in rural areas. We are particularly pleased because our government has taken a policy decision to work for the development of our rural communities and has adopted the Comprehensive Rural Development Strategy. As the information and communications technology (ICT) community, we have dedicated a strategy on ICT Rural Development to help us guide and channel interventions and resources for the development of rural areas in line with government’s outcomes approach as well as the Medium Term Strategic Framework for 2009-2014.
It is indeed befitting that we commemorate this day because telecommunications technologies and services have radically changed the global communications landscape. We are told that it all started on 24 May 1844, when Samuel Morse sent his first public message over a telegraph line in the United States of America between Washington D.C. and Baltimore, and through that simple act, ushered in the telecommunication age.Barely ten years later, telegraphy was available as a service to the general public. Yet today, we are benefiting from high speed broadband infrastructure which enables high speed voice, data and audio, which bundled services have revolutionised the communication landscape from the early forms of communications.
We are also immensly proud as the International Telecommunication Union Secretary General has informed us that our President Mr Jacob Zuma, has been nominated to receive the World Telecommunication and Information Society Award for placing Information and Communication Technologies as tools for ensuring rural development and to bridge the digital divide. Let me take this opportunity to thank the Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun Touré and his organisation for honouring the President and the people of South Africa with such a prestigious international award.
We expect the ITU to bring the world together to assist in resolving the challenges facing the globe, particularly those that include cybersecurity and cybercrime; bridging the digital divide between developing and developed countries, and transforming the global governance of the internet, a facility that touches the lives of people all nations of the world.
I also wish to take this opportunity to state our commitment to the Declaration of the World Summit on Information Society concluded in Geneva and Tunis and adopted by Heads of State and Government in 2005. We are indeed committed to work towards the establishment of a people centred, inclusive information society, turning the digital divide into digital opportunity. As a country, we have produced a Country e-Readiness Report, which will soon be launched, which measures our progress in the diffusion of ICTs for the building of an inclusive Information Society.
As part of the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day celebrations this year, the Department of Communications has embarked on a programme of rapid deployment of ICTs throughout the country. This has seen us partner with the private sector, other government departments and state agencies to ensure that we connect our rural communities to the information highway and improve access to technology which is crucial to South Africa’s growth. Below is a summary of some of the projects we have recently launched as we aim to achieve access and connectivity in rural areas to meet the social and economic needs of the people and to facilitate sustainable development of rural communities.
On 9 May, we have launched a cyberlab in the Maphophoma School in Nongoma. On the 11th May we launched another cyberlab in Mzingezwi Secondary School in Ndwedwe, and on 12 May we launched an Information and Communications Technology Centre located in the government Multi-Purpose Community Communications Centre in Mpendle. Our final event was held on 13 May in Msinga where we switched-on a broadcasting signal for transmission of television and radio as well as the opening of a cyberlab in the Msinga High School.
These projects are about connecting rural South Africa. By implementing our strategy and commitment to bring access to ICTs and digital skills to rural communities we can facilitate better access to information, better opportunities and indeed a better life for all the learners. We are particularly proud that our work is benefiting schools and learners who are living in rural areas as well as the communities where they are.
The newly installed low power transmitters in Msinga, which were switched-on on 13th May, will extend television and radio broadcast services to the community of Msinga. Through the work of the SABC, working together with Sentech and the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), the transmitters have been successfully installed at Keate’s Drift, Tugela Ferry and Msinga Top.
We are doing this believing in our conviction and commitment to make technology available to the people, in the service of the people. By doing this, we are improving the lives of our people for the better. We are also addressing one of our important commitments, which is to ensure universal access to Information and Communication Technology, including broadcasting services for communities in languages relevant to them.
Today the community of Msinga is able to receive the SABC 1, 2, 3 television services as well as their favourable radio stations including uKhozi-FM and others.
In addition, the Deputy Minister together with Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA) has on 14 May launched the Ulwazi ICT Community Centre in New Crossroads in Cape Town. All of the ICT Centres and cyberlabs we have launched are equipped with free-open sources and Microsoft applications and have Internet connection. The world has embarked on a technological revolution in the television broadcasting landscape, which is the change from analogue to digital broadcasting. This migration process once completed will result in a digital dividend which will provide the Government with additional radio frequency capacity, a precious and natural resource, that will assist us in the provision of additional ICT services to meet other developmental needs.
We recognise that we still need to do more by delivering more infrastructure and efficient ICT services to our people. It is estimated that about eight percent of our people do not have access to television and radio. In addition, Internet penetration remains low at about 10 percent. We have committed ourselves to increase our broadband penetration from 2 percent to 15 percent by 2019. Working together with business, labour and the communities we can ensure that our people benefit from the advantages brought by the digital revolution.
We have joined the countries of the world by embarking on the conversion to digital television broadcasting, the process also known as ‘digital migration’. Therefore we have chosen an approach that is suitable for us called dual illumination, where the two systems (analogue and digital) will be broadcast until 2013. This means that for a period of time both analogue and digital signals that carry the same television programs will be broadcast simultaneously. At the end of the digital migration period, the analogue signal will be switched-off and we will be in the digital age of broadcasting.
In order to facilitate the smooth transition from analogue to digital TV broadcasts, the Department of Communications is establishing a structure with sufficient professional capacity in order to manage and prepare for this process.
We have identified Tzaneen in Limpopo and Msinga in KwaZulu-Natal as pilot sites for broadband connectivity projects, as part of our commitment to bringing development and critical access to resources to communities in the rural areas. The deployment of a high-speed communications infrastructure network in these areas is currently underway. We have set aside a budget of R400 million to ensure that by 2012 these initiatives are fully realised.
The benefits of broadband services have been proven in many countries around the globe and it is clear that the transformative power of access to information can be of significant benefit to the citizens of our country as whole. This is about helping people to access information and knowledge where they are, whilst exploiting the benefits of technology by communicating locally and everywhere at any time.
For this, I wish to thank our State Owned Entities, SABC, Sentech, USAASA, National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa (NEMISA) and ICASA, as well as our development partners Intel, COZA Cares, working for ensuring that our projects are the successes that they are.
Similarly, I wish to thank the Department of Communications, as well as the ICT Sector industries for the continued support that we are receiving in the course of doing this work.
Issued by: Department of Communications
17 May 2011
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