Speech by Minister of Communications, General (Ret) Siphiwe Nyanda, during the World Telecommunications and Information Society Day (WTISD) celebration, Dube, Soweto
17 May 2010
Honourable Deputy Minister of Communications, Dina Pule
Premier of Gauteng, Ms Nomvula Mokonyane
Mayor of the City of Johannesburg, Mr Amos Masondo
Director-General of the Department of Communications, Mamodupi Mohlala
Ward councillor and other councillors of neighbouring wards present here
Leaders of other community organisations
Representatives of the City of Johannesburg
Representatives of our state owned enterprises present here today
Leaders of information and communications technology (ICT) industry organisations
Chief executive officers, management and staff of ICT companies
Officials of the Department of Communications
Ladies and gentlemen
It is a great honour and privilege for me and my department to celebrate the World Telecommunications and Information Society Day in this historic township of Soweto. This is a place where the liberation struggle has roots and this makes it an appropriate place to host an event of this magnitude. It was in this very location that one of the well known uprising for freedom and democracy was launched, the June 1976 student uprising.
Sixteen years into freedom and democracy, the story of Soweto has taken a different shape all together. We are able as a people to gather in large numbers, not to share our pain and anger at an oppressive regime. But we are here to commemorate one of the most important days in the calendar of international events, the World Telecommunications and Information Society Day.
This is a day where we revisit how the world has evolved technologically. More importantly, this is a day where all of us need to ask this question: how much effort have we made to ensure that ICT make sense and indeed change the living conditions of our people?
Programme director, ladies and gentleman, I think this question can be better answered by us as government, civil society organisations and the ICT industry.
The thrust of our work for this year centres on our theme, ICTs for accelerated service delivery and empowerment. By this we mean: How can we utilise information and technology to address service delivery challenges and ensure that we empower our communities with the necessary skills and tools to overcome the many challenges that they face daily?
During this financial year, our focus will be on popularising the uptake and usage of ICT by communities and individuals in our underserviced and rural areas. This is to support the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) theme for this year which is: "Better City, Better life with ICT".
To this effect, Department of Communications and the ICT industry companies represented here today, state owned enterprises (SOEs), the South African Communications Forum (SACF), labour organisations and civil society have joined hands in a an attempt to find lasting solutions to our socio-economic challenges.
I have been informed by my department that today; stakeholders have pledged to undertake a campaign targeting 50 000 new internet users to obtain free email addresses across various networks. Over and above this, these ICT sector stakeholders have also committed to digitise personal documentation like birth certificates, educational certificates and other important documents.
I will encourage them to extend the target number because a majority of our people are indeed without e-mail addresses despite owning personal computers and mobile telephones.
Our government has established institutional structures to respond to the global vision of building a people cantered, development oriented and inclusive information society agreed to at the World Summit on Information Society in 2005.
Programme director, ladies and gentlemen,
Government has put in place funding for the subsidies of the free-to-air decoders which will assist people in various communities to receive digital television services. This tool will also ensure that our people gain access to government services online through automated government portal.
We will continue to establish new community radio stations in municipalities where these do not exist, so that our people can have access to information and be able to speak to issues affecting them in their common languages.
Programme director, ladies and gentlemen,
Although we have achieved a high mobile telecommunication penetration of 996 per 1 000 inhabitants, our fixed telephone penetration is very low. What we observed is that, our fixed telephony is still reasonably the most affordable telecommunication service in the world. We will also continue to work and engage with the private sector and communities to reduce the cost of mobile telephony in the course of this year.
With all that taken into consideration, the cost of internet access is still not affordable to the majority of our people. We will not be able to persuade our people to participate in the digital networks, to enable them to conduct business and interact with their loved ones, conveniently through e-mails and other means such as voice over internet protocol (VOIP) if the cost to communicate is unaffordable to the majority of our people in this country. It is known that a majority of our rural areas still lag behind in ICT infrastructure access.
These challenges demand of us to institute strategies and investment to drive connectivity in schools, in the health centres and tele-centres, connecting business development centres in our towns and villages to improve the quality of the lives of our people.
Lastly, I wish to thank my department, sponsors and all Industry organisations and companies for making this day a success. I call on all of you to visit the exhibition and the digital centre to enjoy free access to internet.
Access to information is your right, exercise it.
Issued by: Department of Communications
17 May 2010
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