Speech Delivered by the Minister of Communications, Honourable Radhakrishna L. Padayachie (Roy) MP, during the opening of the 42nd Annual General Meeting of the International Institute of Communications, Johannesburg
3 Oct 2011
Chairperson of ICASA and other Councillors
Board Members and the Management of the IIC
The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Communications, Honourable Eric Kholwane, MP
Board members and CEOs of regulators herewith present
Distinguished participants from industry
Members of the media
Ladies and gentlemen
On behalf of the government and the people of our country, I feel very honoured to welcome you at the start of your deliberations on issues that are closer to the agenda of all countries in our common world.
Our country is privileged to host you as you seek answers to the pressing challenges of the day, especially as it relates to the drive to promote universal service and access to communications technologies. This is for the second time that our country is hosting the Annual General Meeting of the International Institute of Communications (IIC).
About a decade ago, in 2002, the IIC Annual General Meeting took place here in South Africa, hence it is more fitting to meet here again to take stock of the progress we have made since then to bring technology closer to the people.
At the time of your meeting in 2002, many countries in the developing world were in the midst of creating enabling regulatory instruments with the introduction of independent regulators.
Today, as we gather here, many countries in the world have made significant strides in establishing independent regulators. As a result of this, we have continued to witness an unprecedented growth in the contribution of ICTs to economic growth and societal development in general. A lot more still needs to be done to create an environment conducive for competition in the promotion of consumer choice.
On the occasion of this opening ceremony, I have been asked to make some remarks on Global Trends in ICT as it relates to the attainment of our shared goals to achieve universality.
All of us will agree that over the past few years, we have continued to witness unprecedented growth in information and communications services. ICTs make it easier for us to communicate with each other, and to transact trillions of dollars across borders with a single click. In the process, the ICTs have become a leading platform in facilitating investments across the world.
But, it is not enough to measure the contribution of ICTs through technological innovations when a significant number of poor people cannot access these tools and therefore remain outside the socio-economic space.
Attaining universal access and universal service is not an event but a moving target. As technological innovations take place, they also increase pressure on national policy to facilitate the distribution of these tools to all the people.
This is in indeed an important landmark considering that while ICTs have continued to grow, in the process changing all manner of doing things, there are still many people in the world who cannot enjoy the convenience brought by these tools.
The consequences of the skewed distribution of ICTs between and within countries will, in the long run, result in negative repercussions on the global economy as a whole.
As we have witnessed recently with the global economic meltdown, we cannot easily compartmentalise problems as exclusive problems of particular regions. Over the years, globalisation has become a reality, and it does not seem like there is a turning back.
An interconnected world brings more advantages than disadvantages; the challenge lies in creating a conducive environment for all to reap the benefits of innovation and change.
A solution to bridge the digital divide lies in the deployment of broadband in rural and other under-serviced areas without neglecting the quest for improved quality in the urban centres where the majority of the population reside.
In South Africa, government is committed to achieve universal broadband access by 2020 through the combination of fibre and wireless technologies as the main drivers.
As enablers of this approach we will need to make the right choices regarding the licensing of high demand spectrum, including the digital dividend.
A number of developed and developing countries have made significant strides in the aligning of their spectrum licensing policies with the national development imperatives. This conference thus allows us to learn from each other, the most innovative ways to use the scarce radio frequency resources.
We have also taken note of trends towards the licensing of Open Access Network providers in a number of countries across the world. If implemented correctly, open access networks will help us fast track the rollout of broadband in under-serviced areas. Organisations such as the IIC have a strategic role to play in ensuring that we develop workable models to building pro-competitive open access models.
In the next few weeks our country is preparing to host the Global Conference Climate Change. This conference will provide us with the necessary opportunity to also define the role of information and communications technology in climate change.
Amongst others, we need to start thinking of practical interventions to increase the uptake and usage of Green Technologies across the world. To achieve this, we have to increase our investment in research and development through active collaboration with research and academic institutions throughout the world.
ICTs should also provide the required platform for the communications of messages around climate change. As a sector, we have a responsibility to bring information on climate change at the disposal of all the people of the world, including the poorest within our respective countries.
While ICTs offer immense possibilities and opportunities, the sector can also provide a platform for criminal elements to manipulate individuals, institutions and even nation states themselves. Cyber-security is no longer a heresy, but a real challenge.
In order to enjoy the benefits, all of us are called upon to act with the required haste to combat this scourge. All of us, as individuals, organisations and nation states, have a role to play and it is only through active collaboration that we will win this war. The war against cybercrime has to be won sooner before it gets too late.
The challenges facing the world remain immense, and we can only maximise benefits by strengthening institutions that bring together all of us to deliberate on matters of common concern.
I last week attended the High Level Ministerial Forum on Internet Governance which was hosted by the Government of Kenya together with the ITU in Nairobi, where I stated the South African Government’s position with respect to public policy and the internet; that we emphasise in our programme the view that the internet has become a critical tool for national cohesion and poverty eradication in national development.
As such it is our view that governments must be involved in the development of public policy to ensure that the internet develops in ways that offer the most benefit to humankind. I would like to re-emphasise my statement at the Ministerial Forum on Internet Governance, of the need for inclusivity in the global system, and for fair and transparent multilateral decision making, so that all countries, including developing countries, can participate in addressing public policy issues that pertain to the internet, in line with the WSIS outcomes.
Decisions concerning Internet Governance, Cyber security and the future of the Internet cannot just be the preserve of the powerful and dominant vested interests.
South Africa remains committed to participate in such forums as the IIC in pursuit of equitable distribution of ICT resources within and between countries. In light of this, we will support any endeavour that seeks to strengthen the IIC and other institutions.
We have also taken note of endeavours to increase the presence of the IIC in Africa, a view which we support. It is our hope that whatever institutional developments take place, such should also seek to collaborate with regional and continental institutions, particularly those under the aegis of the African Union and the regional economic communities.
While there are many issues confronting the global ICT environment, I do not doubt that this conference will help us identify priorities.
As a country, we look forward to engagements and the outcome of your deliberations and, as we continue to network, during and after the conference, we will call on some of you to help us create an enabling policy and regulatory environment to facilitate universal access.
With these remarks, I wish to welcome you in our country and therefore declare the official opening of your deliberations.
Issued by: Department of Communications
3 Oct 2011
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