Budget Vote speech delivered by the Deputy Minister of Communications, Honourable Obed Bapela, Parliament of the Republic of South Africa
31 May 2011Honourable House Chairperson
Honourable Minister of Communications, Mr Radhakrishna Padayachie (Roy)
Senior Managers and Staff of the Department of Communications
Leadership and Management of State Own Enterprises
Captains of information and communication technology (ICT) Industry
Civil Society leaders in the ICT sector
Fellow South Africans
Today, it is exactly 15 days after we celebrated the World Telecommunications and Information Society Day with the theme “better life in Rural Communities with information and communication technology (ICT)”.
Six days ago we again celebrated the Africa Day on 25 May in building a better Africa, and through the African Telecommunications Union we will continue to pursue issues related to internet governance and accessibility, affordability and availability of electronic communications network and services in Africa.
Therefore, this Budget Vote 27 comes at the most exciting moment in our country and in particular the ICT sector.
With the power of fixed and mobile broadband abundantly available through landed international cables and fibre-optic cables in our country, we will improve Government’s ability to provide quality basic service by connecting Thusong Services Centres, Regional Offices, schools and health facilities in pursuance of our ideal society of a connected people.
Our theme for the 2011 budget vote “taking technology to the people in service of the people” is more relevant (and not a slogan) as it responds to government’s developmental trajectory and International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU’s) World Telecommunications and Information Society Day theme, of working to build better lives with ICT’s in rural communities.
This theme indeed directs us to channel our efforts towards implementing the department’s envisaged Vision 2020 and achieving Government’s Medium Term Strategic Framework priority of building sustainable livelihoods thereby help us in meeting the Millennium Developmental Goals (MDGs) as we near our 20th anniversary of a free and democratic South Africa in 2014.
In 2009, we ranked 34th in the world in terms of fixed-line telephony, with over 4.3 million fixed line connections. South Africa is one of the fastest growing mobile communications markets in the world. As of 2009, there were over 46.4 million mobile users, ranking the country 26th in terms of mobile subscriber numbers.
Honourable members, findings by World Wide Worx in 2009, representing individual users shows that mobile communication in South Africa has reached 50 million connections. This confirms that South Africa’s cellular market enjoys robust growth with market penetration of about hundred percent.
An increase in the number of undersea cables linking South Africa to the rest of the world plus the introduction of smart cellular phone has seen a shake-up in local internet access, with a number of South African internet users passing six million, finally breaking through the 10% mark in internet penetration for the country.
Regarding broadband access we are not doing well as a country compared to other middle income countries and with those in North African countries, which are ahead of us. While mobile broadband has bolstered broadband access, growth remains relatively poor and not adequate to push international broadband ranking indices. It is estimated by World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) that South Africa is far behind other compared developing countries with regard to broadband and internet usage.
Concerning radio and television, 94% of the population have access to radio, while 84% have access to television. In bridging the existing divide will continue to rollout of low power transmitters taking into account the digital migration process.
We envisage with the advent of digital migration will close the access gap by proving television access to all South African by 2013 and we urge Independent Content Producers to take the opportunity of producing more local content.
As the Minister announced today, we welcome the SABC plan to commence its 24 hour news channel to give our people real-time news as it happens on radio.
E-connectivity and E-services
Honourable members, as we present this budget, enormous work is underway led by myself working together with other Honourable Deputy Ministers to ensure that we provide and deliver quality services to our people through e-Education, e-Health, e-Rural connectivity. I am confident that these applications and services will help us as nation and indeed the developing world in particular to bring closer the MDGs within reach of ending ignorance and accessing information that will empower our people.
We have a responsibility of connecting the remaining twenty-one thousand schools throughout the country of which majority of them are in rural areas. Today, we have only seven thousand schools connected albeit challenges of capacity with reference to computer-learner ratio, human capital to deliver the service and other social problems such as theft.
Plans are underway to bring e-Health connectivity project up to speed similar with the e-School connectivity plan. Mobile technologies can be instrumental in improving the quality of health services while reducing the cost of patient care, particularly in under-serviced areas. A study is being undertaken including sharing experience.
Bridging the digital divide and building better livelihoods is possible when working together as a nation across spheres of Government, with the private sector and civil society operating vertically and horisontally in an integrated manner. Broadband technology holds incredible potential to accelerate the country’s development path and bringing Government’s priorities and MDG’s in reach. As we create a people-centred, inclusive information society we turn the digital divide into digital opportunity.
Another allocation on the budget dedicated to e-Skills and working together with the Department of Higher Education and Training, Institutions of Higher Learning and Further Education and Training Colleges we are working at revising ICT curriculum to ensure the graduates we produce graduate with the relevant qualification which meets needs of the country and the economy.
Together with the Department of Higher Education and Training we are exploring to establish a dedicated higher education institution purely for provisioning ICT discipline or with greater curriculum delivery on ICT. At the turn of this financial year Honourable Members, we will provide progress report on this matter to this House, as the Minister is already in discussions with his counterparts in higher education and training.
Additional funding is required to amounting to at least seventy-five billion to roll-out infrastructure (also as info-infrastructure) as identified in the New Growth Path. Rolling out ICT infrastructure also requires an integrated approach from both private and public sector. During this financial year, Honourable members, the department will convene a symposium with the Provincial, Local Government and Industry players to develop a framework to facilitate fast-tracking the deployment of electronic communications network rollout in an integrated manner. This will also encourage infrastructure sharing and network interoperability.
As government we have developed best practice policies, however challenges remain with regard to implementation. The passing of the Electronic Communications Act (ECA) has further liberalised the ICT market thus providing proving choice for consumers.
Honourable members, South Africa is a developmental state and government will intervene to address market failures. In this regard we call upon industry to cooperate and collaborate in pursuit of common objective as universal access to ICT has spin-offs for an inclusive economic growth, job creation and development.
Cybercrime and cyber security
The advent of the internet and new information, communication and technologies didn’t alert us to possible threat of cyber-crime. ICT is a transversal tool for interacting and intersecting at every major societal activity and Government has the responsibility to enact laws and regulations to protect its citizens from any possible threat.
Work has begun a comprehensive cyber security policy framework for the country which will be finalised in the course of the financial year. This policy aims to create a secure, dependable, reliable and trustworthy cyber environment. This policy seeks to build confidence in the use of ICTs in general.
Honourable members, I trust we are all aware that the internet knows no boundaries and allow me to share with your kind selves; types of common cyber crime as we also alert the nation, they are: Credit card fraud; Virus dissemination; Software piracy; Net extortion; Phishing; Spoofing; Hacking; Cyber impersonation; Pornography and Denial of Service (DOS), as you see policing cybercrime will require collaboration and cooperation with other nations and here at home maximum collaboration of various government departments and agencies to pass progressive laws and regulations as we always do, which will not stifle free-flow of access to information and economic growth.
Sector engagement and participation
Persons with disabilities
The ICT sector generally is not performing well in meeting the two percent target of employing persons with disabilities. Building an inclusive information society also calls upon the ICT sector to ensure usage of sign language, subtitles and close caption in service provision and wish to urge all broadcasters to maintain the service.
We will continue to engage with organised formations of persons with disabilities and it will serve us well to have an ICT forum dedicated to persons with disabilities to deal with issues raised.
The recent national summit for persons with disabilities hosted by ICASA which I attended and gave an address takes forward the our objective of mainstreaming ICT for persons disabilities, which amongst other resolved that ICASA must “urge licensees and postal services to apply universal design principles to achieve access to communications and postal services by Persons with Disabilities and ICASA in conjunction with the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) develop accessibility for ICT’’s services”. Lastly, we need to development assistive technologies devices and ensure that they are accessible to persons with disabilities, especially in rural and urban poor settlements.
We call upon the stakeholders including our SOEs and the private sector to move with the necessary speed to address this national challenge. Interventions in this regard should include the training of persons with disabilities to participate in the development of ICTs. We will introduce monitoring mechanisms to ensure that our SOEs and the department comply with the relevant legislation dealing with the rights of persons with disabilities.
Youth and women in ICT
We will continue to support youth and women businesses in ICT in accordance with the Preferential Procurement Policy as part of our programme to support and develop small, medium and micro enterprises (SMME’s). Our support will be two fold, firstly, on uptake and usage of ICT by SMME’s in running their businesses and secondly as service providers.
Part of our developmental approach in supporting especially women in ICT we will revive the women in ICT Forum working together with Progressive Women’s Movement (PWM), to assist in asserting in women leadership in the ICT and ownership of business to address equity issues. We pride ourselves in Telkom for appointing the first woman as Chief Executive, Ms Pinky Moholi in the telecommunications and ICT industry.
Also a number of SOE’s Boards have women leaders. For example, the Chairperson and CEO at SAPO are women. There are several cases of women ascending to the highest echelons of the sector. Malibongwe!
Honourable members, tomorrow, 1 June 2011 marks the beginning of the last month of the implementation of RICA. We accordingly call upon all South Africans to register the details with the relevant mobile service providers.
Failure to register will result in people being switch off thus reducing the progress we have made to promote universal access to ICTs. Let me indicate upfront that 30 June 2011 is the D-day for all sim-cards, be it for mobile phones or other devices, including traffic lights to be registered. No extension will be granted.
Have your South Africa green bar coded identity book, proof of residence; alternatively go to your Chief or Induna in your village or your Municipal ward Councillor to give you a letter of proof of residence in areas where there are no physical addresses.
Department of Communications and State Own Enterprises (SOEs)
Honourable members, I am glad to report to this august House that we have managed and will continue to ensure that there is stability and normality to the department and its SOEs to ensure that our people continue to receive services they expect. Stability and normality particularly at SOE’s led us to ensure that all SOE’s are aligned in particular to the department’s mission, strategic priorities and generally to government’s developmental path.
Post Office and Postal Services
The enactment of Post Bank Act, 2010 enables the Post Office to provide banking services to the un-banked citizens deliver social grants to beneficiaries of social wages in an affordable and less risk environment, ensure banking service to remote areas of the country. Subsequent passing of lending, borrowing and investment policies will position the Post Bank to compete freely in the market.
Working together with Municipalities the South African Post Service will ensure that every household has a physical address and our humble gratitude goes to Municipalities who have begun implementing this project especially in informal settlement and in other localities reorganising physical address and providing street names where they didn’t exist.
Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA)
Honourable Minister earlier made reference to our ICT rural development strategy process to support the Comprehensive Rural Development Strategy. In this context, we have given USAASA a target of establishing 400 ICT Access Centres in under-serviced areas, linked to rural priority nodes by 2015. This ideally means that the agency will have to establish at least hundred centres per annum.
USAASA has a mandate to provide universal service and access especially in areas where the market failure has been persistent. This also means that the entity will also be charged to support efforts to deliver broadband access in rural areas in line with the Broadband Policy.
National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa (NEMISA)
The National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa (NEMISA) has informed us that it aims to become a transformational leader in the training and development of world class ICT and multi-media skills in pursuit of knowledge and innovation in South Africa and the African continent.
NEMISA collaborates with other entities such as the SABC, MDDA, as well as industry and academia, thus contributing to the reduction of poverty and joblessness. Acquiring skills and education by young people will enable us to reduce the unemployment rate faced by majority of youth.
NEMISA will also continue to partner with youth formations especially in rural communities to ensure youth access its skills programme where they live.
In our quest to improve the capacity of community media NEMISA we will continue to provide training for staff and management of Community Broadcasting. This will improve their skills level on station management and programme production.
We have allocated R33 million for NEMISA’s in the current financial year.
Building a better Africa and the world
Honourable members, as part of our efforts to encourage and support multilateralism in dealing with continental and international telecommunications and ICT related matters we will participate in the activities of the Pan African Postal Union and the Universal Postal Union (PAPU), amongst other key forums. We will therefore work with other African countries through PAPU to ensure that we contribute meaningfully to the preparations and debates at the Universal Postal Union plenipotentiary conference to be held in Qatar in 2012.
The following ICT international days will be a permanent feature in the department’s calendar celebrated with various communities to create awareness, educate and to reflect on progress we are making as a country. Furthermore, Honourable members, in consultation with the Portfolio Committee on Communications we will sponsor parliamentary debates on some of the dates listed below:
- 17 May – World Telecommunications and Information Society Day
- 9 October – World Post Day
- 10 November – Broadcasting Day
- 21 November – Television Day
- 2 December – World Computer Day
In conclusion, Honourable members I believe we are in agreement that as this generation of people we have the responsibility to ensure universal access. I imagine each one of us in their retired homes or retired or sitting under a tree at different places with our laptops tablets, iPads, and smart-phone charting to each other kilometres away rewinding and looking at prospects for future ICT’s tools and service. That’s the ideal South Africa we must strive for in the ICT for our people.
I wish to thank the department’s staff, SOEs, Civil Society Organisations (CSO) and Industry players for welcoming me warmly when I was appointed in this portfolio. I am humble by the induction and orientation you gave me. Indeed I believe all of you will agree that I have listened and will continue to listen to your kind selves as we shape the ICT sector and ensuring universal access.
Most of you have also realised that I wasn’t and I am not a novice. I came into this portfolio with knowledge gained from my previous life as House Chairperson of the National Assembly responsible for Committees, Oversight and ICT and I co-chaired the Global Centre for ICT in Parliaments a forum under the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA). This gave me in-depth knowledge into the sector from policy development to service provision.
Finally, I wish to thank my family especially my wife present today in the gallery and she has been appointed recently as the Speaker of the biggest Metropolitan Council in South Africa – the City of Johannesburg.
Working to together we will build better livelihoods.
I thank you.
Issued by: Department of Communications
31 May 2011
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