The Speech delivered by the Minister of Communications, Honourable Ms Dina Pule at the inaugural ICT Indaba at the Cape Town International Convention Centre
4 Jun 2012“Connecting Africa to Development with ICTs”
Thank you Programme Director, Mr Sandile Zungu,
Honourable Cabinet Members,
Honourable Ministers from our partner countries,
Honourable Deputy Secretary-General of the ITU, Mr Houlin Zhao,
Honourable Deputy Minister of Communications, Ms Stella Tembisa Ndabeni,
Honourable Deputy Ministers,
Honourable Members of Parliament,
Chairperson and Members of the Portfolio Committee on Communications,
Chairperson and Members of the Select Committee,
Leaders of the ICT sector,
Ladies and gentlemen.
Please allow me, on behalf of the Government and the people of the Republic of South Africa, to welcome our esteemed international guests, in particular the Ministers from the African continent, Deputy Secretary General Mr Zhao, and our esteemed group of speakers, to our shores. The focus of South Africa’s foreign policy on mutual friendships and cooperation is the reason we are proud to call you our partners.
A special acknowledgement to all South Africans who came here to support us as well as those who are watching at home on their televisions, or listening on their radio. We also thank the SABC for joining hands with the government and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to making this broadcast possible.
Today, we are taking a giant leap in positioning Africa to claim her pride of place in the technology revolution that is aimed at achieving her developmental goals. Africa’s people have to be architects of their own destiny.
But, as we push for our just place, we realise that we can achieve a lot more through cooperation and working together in partnership with our people.
South Africa’s own history is rooted in rich collaborative global efforts that ultimately brought down that vile and dehumanising politico-social system of Apartheid. Our liberation heroines and heroes were warmly welcomed in many countries of the world and they were hosted by our neighbours on the continent when they mounted the final assault on the Apartheid regime.
We are invoking this spirit of cooperation and collaboration as we seek to put the citizens of our beloved continent at the centre of the knowledge and information economy. We are doing so in the comfortable knowledge that we are united with our brothers and sisters because the alliances that were formed in the trenches have blossomed into meaningful friendship with our partner countries.
Recently, we partnered with the continent to deliver the best Soccer World Cup ever. Last year the world gathered in Durban for the climate talks under the guise of the 17th Conference of the Parties.
These days, African leaders are tirelessly pulling our people out of obscurity. All across the continent, roads, dams, clinics and schools are some of the developmental infrastructure programmes that the African leaders are putting in place.
Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) has to be at the centre of this African Union-pushed infrastructure development plan. ICT is the infrastructure that improves the quality and widens the variety of services offered by each of those major infrastructure programmes.
By rolling out broadband to health facilities, we can connect remote clinics to health professionals who may be based in other parts of the world. I know that the eAfrica Network initiative sponsored by the government of India and is aimed at achieving this goal. In Senegal, and elsewhere, the network delivers e-health services and tele-teaching to many Africans in their countries.
Governments can also use technology to improve the quality of the healthcare services they offer to their people. They can do so by providing health professionals with the technology they can use to monitor the patient trends and make better informed medical interventions.
Clinics that are connected to the internet can also act as community Internet Cafes that connect our people in remote areas to the knowledge and information superhighway. This can empower small businesses in those areas to grow much faster than they would without internet access because they would be able market their services or advertise their businesses to wider audiences.
A similar quantum leap in development can be achieved by connecting schools. Internet connectivity can improve the quality of education that governments can deliver. A crucial element of delivering e-learning has to be the introduction of an interactive element. Learners have to interact with the content they are being taught because this is the only way to ignite innovation.
Clearly, ICT infrastructure yields a greater developmental dividend from the investment made by our governments for our citizens.
Honourable Ministers and distinguished guests,
This realisation gained prominence in 2007 when the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and African leaders launched the Connect Africa goals, to help fast track the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Let me hasten to add that all of these goals are aligned to our own government’s key priorities of fighting crime and corruption, improving the quality of health and education, rural development and creating sustainable jobs.
Through various regional ICT agreements on the continent, we are on course to overcoming the challenges of connecting all the African cities, towns and villages.
South Africa is an active participant in the Communications Regulators Association of Southern Africa and the African Union Conference of Ministers Responsible for Communications and Information Technology.
These agreements have created public-private partnerships that are designed to harmonise the regulatory and legislative environment in the continent to position it to fight cybercrime and to foster socio economic advancement and development.
These efforts have resulted in the partnerships between the public and private sector that have delivered undersea cables.
Africa is now connected to Europe, North America and Asia through nine undersea cables. The West Africa Cable System, launched in May 2012, represents the first connection to an undersea cable for Namibia, Togo, Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
There are five more undersea cables that are planned for the continent by 2014. One of those will connect Africa to our BRICS partner countries Brazil, Russia, India and China.
The recent demise of the theology of market fundamentalism is making the continent to shift from bipolarity to multipolarity in international alignments in its search for an alternative transformative and developmental economic model that will advance sustainable progress in Africa.
All of these cable connections should help improve the connection to our new trade partners, reduce the cost to communicate and improve the quality of the internet services. They also make it possible to deliver more progressive online services.
Deliberations in this conference have to lay the foundation for the harmonisation of continental policies such that these cable connections can create thousands of jobs and enable millions of people across the continent to communicate at cheaper rates.
Working together, we can place the citizens of the developing nations at the centre of the knowledge and digital economy superhighway.
As Erik Qualman, the best-selling author of Socialnomics, says in his book, Digital Leader:
"Digital footprints are what we post about ourselves. Digital shadows are what others upload about us. Collectively, they have changed the world forever. As leaders and future leaders we need to adapt to this new world."
Hence this inaugural ICT Indaba brings all these worldwide industry leaders together.
The ICT Indaba
Honourable Ministers and Distinguished Guests,
The objectives of the ICT Indaba are anchored in the fundamental view that, like other infrastructure programmes such as energy, and transport, ICT can contribute significantly to the continent’s development.
However, to reap the benefits of technology evolution for the benefit of our people, our governments needs to coordinate efforts in the region to achieve improved development.
Central to this coordination will be the creation of partnerships with the private sectors and labour organisations and civil organisations to find solutions to our most pressing questions of inequality, poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment on the continent.
It is for this reason that as a government, we took a decision to create this multi-stakeholder platform of engagement – “the International ICT Indaba” so that as equal partners we can tackle these challenges.
We are considering the possibility of coming up with an ICT Indaba declaration which will be the final product that gives direction on what leaders in government, business, labour and individuals can do to accelerate our discourse for ICT for development.
Hosting of the ICT Indaba
Honourable Ministers and distinguished guests,
The ICT Indaba is hosted by the South Africangovernment in partnership with the ITU and is sponsored by the world leadingcompanies, such as MTN, Vodacom, Telkom, SABC, Multichoice and others.
With her population of one billion people, Africa has the market to becomea global leader in the diffusion of ICT’sfor its development. The Indaba, hosted in the beautiful City of Cape Town, will contribute significantly in the building of human capital and nurturing innovation for the knowledge-based economy in South Africa and the rest of the continent.
During this important Youth Month in South Africa, we have invited young people to the Indaba. We shall grant the youth, particularly school going pupils, free access to the exhibition on the 7 June 2012.
Among us here today, are two young people who are at the forefront of delivering solutions to our everyday lives.
Rapelang Rabane. Rapelang is a one of the founders of Yeigo Communications, a company that is among the pioneers that delivered Voice over Internet Protocol services over mobile phones. This service allows internet-enabled mobile device users to make cheaper phone calls through the internet instead of the traditional voice calls.
We also have 20-year old Michael Rodger. Michael has been fixing computers since he was 15. Michael is now putting the final touches to an electronic board that can help teach people the basics of computer programming.
This board will be used to teach high school learners and older people who are studying through the Adult Basic Education and Training programme.
The presence of these two and the other young people we are hosting at this conference is the result of our interpretation of the successful elements that lead to a successful ICT ecosystem.
The uninhibited spirit of youth needs the steady hand of older people who have solved complex problems before. They also need financers who can see the value of intellectual property and of course, regulators who can create an environment that allows those ideas to flourish.
ICT in South Africa
South Africa's IT sector is a leader in the fields of electronic banking services, pre-payment, revenue management and fraud prevention systems, and in the manufacture of set-top boxes. All of these technologies are successfully exported to the Africa and the rest of the world.
The local manufacturing of the Set Top Boxes, as part of the rollout of Digital Terrestrial Television, will enhance this leadership position through the greater investment in innovation. We expect that this strategy will result in the creation of many jobs across the continent as factories go up to manufacture the boxes.
Research by World Wide Worx shows that the internet directly contributes around 2% to the South African economic output. This is in addition to the significant contribution ICTs make in enabling all other economic sectors to be more efficient and profitable.
Discussions in this august gathering must shape the framework for using technology in order to achieve socio-economic development and create sustainable jobs.
Like many other countries, we have taken a decision to review and overhaul our ICT policies. We want the policies to deliver our progressive goals of achieving universal access to broadband much faster.
To this end, we have invited nominees to serve on the ICT Policy Panel of Experts, a group that will work with the department to provide for policy recommendations.
World Wide Worx has also reported that over six million South Africans have access to internet. This represents significant progress. In 2010 the broadband subscriber base increased by 50%.
Much of this growth can be attributed to an impressive increase in the number of mobile broadband customers using smartphones. Mobile broadband grew by 31% in 2011 to reach 4.2 million people in the country.
We are however concerned that the broadband prices remain very high based on purchasing power parity in comparison with some OECD countries such as Mexico, Chile and Hungary.
We are taking steps to address this challenge by introducing more competition in the data market.
Through the licensing process which we have embarked upon, we expect to identify capable Internet Service Providers (ISP) who will make use of the radio frequency spectrum to push the prices lower. These ISPs, big and small, are also expected to offer affordable broadband services to poor South Africans and the people living in rural areas.
We shall conduct studies to explore and determine the needs for services within the 700mhz and 800mhz frequency band, as resolved by the ITU World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC-12).
This will help us to decide on the best policy options in both broadcasting and mobile technologies for the achievement of universal access and the goals of our developmental state.
We continue to monitor progress in the pay-TV market to ensure that competition and diverse broadcasting services are accessible to all South Africans.
We expect that this Indaba will help us design a broadcasting environment that will assist in the universal access to broadcasting services in Africa, and the creation of jobs in manufacturing and content development areas.
Honourable Ministers and distinguished guests,
Thank you for investing your time, money and input in this first ICT Indaba, which is the first of its kind in Africa. We look forward to progressive and fruitful discussions and information sharing sessions over the next four day.
Thank you all.
Cell: 082 898 1657
Issued by: Department of Communications
4 Jun 2012
[ Top ]