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DoC: Ayanda Dlodlo: Address by Minister of Communications, at the SADC ICT Minister meeting, Fairmont Zimbali Resort, KwaZulu-Natal (06/09/2017)

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DoC: Ayanda Dlodlo: Address by Minister of Communications, at the SADC ICT Minister meeting, Fairmont Zimbali Resort, KwaZulu-Natal (06/09/2017)

Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo

7th September 2017

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Programme Director,
SADC Ministers,
Hon Onkokame Kitso Mokaola (Botswana)
Hon Emery Okundji Ndjovu (DRC)
Hon Joang Molapo (Lesotho)
Hon Nicholas Harry Dausi (Malawi)
Hon Yogida Sawmynaden (Mauritius)
Hon Manuela Joaquim Rebelo (Mozambique)
Hon Tjekero Tweya (Namibia)
Hon Christopher Ndlangamandla (Swaziland)
Hon Sylvester M Ambokile (Tanzania)
Hon Brian Mushimba (Zambia)
Hon Kampamba Mulenga (Zambia)
Hon Christopher Mushohwe (Zimbabwe)
Hon Supa Collins Mandiwanzira (Zimbabwe)
Hon Minister Siyabonga Cwele
MEC Sihle Zikalala
Deputy Mayor of Illembe District Municipality
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for the opportunity to deliver the keynote address to at this important session in the SADC region. I would like to take this opportunity to welcome Ministers from SADC region who are joining us in our discussion.

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South Africa owes a great debt to our African brothers and sisters on the continent who stood by us in our historic fight for freedom and justice. In the spirit of our late icon, OR Tambo, Albert Luthuli and many others who fought for democracy, let us join together to create a united and prosperous Africa. 

We also meet in the month where South Africans celebrate their heritage, a heritage that spans the region. Many in our respective countries have relationships and families including businesses across our borders. Batswana in North West have family in Botswana, the Basotho in the Free State have family in Lesotho. Malawians in South Africa have family in South Africa and Zambia.  Our heritage is the same, we are family and not just neighbors.

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With this brief background given, our conversation this morning is all the more important, as we deliberate, let us think of all these interconnected relationships we have with one another across the SADC region.
As we meet here as business, government and the regulators, we need to seriously ponder on how we can make interconnectedness easier for the people of the SADC region. We owe it to them.

Let me also acknowledge that in our history for many years before the advent of democracy, the date 24 September which is now the national Heritage Day was for many years in remembrance of the Great King Shaka of the Zulu nation, whose remains are not too far away from this area. In addition, the remains of Inkosi Albert Luthuli, one of the first leaders of the ANC and Nobel Price Laureate also lie not far away from here. This significantly reminds us of the need to nurture, preserve and protect our rich heritage.

Ladies and Gentlemen
Our engagement today will create a more integrated region and help move our communication systems forward. Today’s session speaks directly to the overarching objective of the SADC Communications and ICT Programme which is establishing a communications system that is accessible, affordable, efficient and reliable.
We are entrusted to work towards a system that is of high quality and fully integrated to meet our region’s diverse requirements and to ensure connectivity to all our citizens. In doing so we will ensure our goals of regional economic integration, poverty alleviation and industrialisation become a reality.
It will also assist in our endeavours of transforming the SADC region into an information and knowledge-based economy. An accessible, affordable and reliable telecommunications is essential for us to benefit from the Fourth Industrial Revolution which has the potential to leapfrog SADC region economically and socially as it brings new opportunities to our citizens.

Distinguished Guests,
Our discussions today will be of keen interest to a number of stakeholders within the SADC region in particular our citizens, the business community and the mobile operator industry.
We meet yesterday with the sector and various countries, amongst many things, we took stock of the progress we have made as a region in advancing ICTs. There has been strong in roads into the sector that has been supported by a number of ground-breaking initiatives. Many of these initiatives are spearheaded by the very people in this room. It includes amongst many others:
Internet for All Initiatives that aims to connect all unconnected SADC citizen;
Broadcast digital migration in the region is helping free up additional bandwidth
The Smart Africa  Initiative uses technology to address our development challenges,
African Internet Exchange System (AXIS) which aims to build a strong internet connectivity in Africa.
ITU Connect 2020 to allow for affordable and universal broadband access in the SADC region.

Despite the good progress we have made as a region, communications infrastructure and services particularly in rural, peri-urban and township areas is still not where we would like it to be.
Unfortunately even today we live in a society where too many of our citizens are still denied access to information and the life changing benefits it brings.  Of SADC’s population of 300 million people, only 16,3% of the population are using the internet compared to a penetration of 47% globally.
The service industries play a crucial role in national economic development. Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are not only important in their own right, but are also important inputs into other industries

The successful development of e-commerce and e-government require that business and government have efficient telecom links with consumers and citizens. If the majority of the population is either not connected, or cannot afford to use services, e-commerce and e-government initiatives will falter, economic growth will be restricted, and SADC’s Information Society will be confined to an elite minority.  Lastly if people are not connected they cannot participate.
Because service outputs feed into other industries, economies with highly priced and inefficient service sectors will find their competitiveness in extractive and manufacturing industries affected as well. A key performance indicator for the ICT sector is the relative price structure of services. Relative prices affect the competitiveness of the industry in export markets. High telecommunications prices have a negative effect on economic activity.

In addition, all Member States recognises the central importance of access to ICTs for the achievement of its economic and social goals. Affordable communications for all citizens and business alike, throughout the Region, is at the core of our existence as SADC.

Pricing is the key indicator of the competitiveness of markets. Yet in many instances, there is very little pricing transparency to allow for any meaningful assessment by consumers or even the regulators of mobile communication prices. The affordability of ICT services is also key in bringing more people in the information age.
As Ministers in the Region, we should act swiftly to facilitate the spread of broadband services that are fast, reliable and affordable. To ensure that the information society will be truly global and inclusive, much needs to be done to bring its benefits to the poorest in societies.
This means that future policy action needs to address issues that are related not only to access, but also to the following topical issues:
Price;
Bandwidth;
Speed and Quality of Services(QoS);
Digital Skills;
Content and language; and
Applications targeted to low-end users

Other strategies and programmes which I hope we will discuss and agree on, include:
Strategy for the future around 4th Industrial Revolution
National broadband connectivity to aggregate demand
Advancing Cross border infrastructure
Developing e-Commerce to revitalise the Post and ensure SMME participation
Enterprise development and industry partnership to build on skills, local manufacturing and innovation
Operationalisation of the SADC TV bouquet to build regional social cohesion, sharing of local content and create platform to tell our own good news.

As Chair of SADC, we commit to support the implementation of SADC priority programmes and work collectively with all Member-State. Key to our ability to deliver on these initiatives will be availability deployment of capable human resource to support the SADC Secretariat to drive implementation of these programmes and projects.

Distinguished guests

The revolution experienced through the mobile telephone needs to be replicated to bring people online. The emergence of new mobile devices (such as smart-phones and tablet computers) is certainly accelerating this process, but they are still too expensive in developing countries and there is a need to develop more affordable models and devices.
In this regard, we have noted that a new a digital divide is unfolding between those with high-speed which are generally found in many high-income countries and those with lower speed are in many low-income countries.
ICT services have to be affordable as with other goods or service. The price of a voice call, an sms or an Internet connection influences how people will use ICTs), and how often.  It is therefore important that any analysis of the information society should not only consider and understand such factors as ICT infrastructure, awareness or skills, but also take into account the cost and affordability of services.

International Roaming, speed, and quality of services debates
Distinguished guests

ICT access and usage are key enablers of countries’ overall technological readiness but the affordability of prices remains a cause for concern in the Region.
As indicated yesterday, in South Africa we are probing the high cost of mobile data through our competition authorities. We are doing so because we see wireless communication as a critical factor in driving the economy forward. We also recognise that data will be a driver of many of the innovations that we have seen in the 21st century onwards.

Broadband also has the potential to assure seamless Internet connectivity for users when they travel across borders to other countries. Indeed, international roaming services have greatly evolved in recent years, improving the user’s experience when accessing mobile-broadband services abroad. However, most often data roaming tariffs are prohibitively high, which greatly deters mobile-broadband usage when roaming.
Through this engagement, we have the responsibility as Ministers in the Region to ensure that we deal with a growing number of mobile-broadband roamers who suffer from the so-called ‘bill shock’, i.e. an unexpected increase in their monthly bill and, as a result, many travellers are disconnecting their smartphones or restricting data roaming use when travelling abroad.

I am therefore happy to note that work has been done. Over the last few years strong inroads have been made to address high telecommunication cost as a result of roaming rates. The work includes the consideration and approval of the SADC Roaming Policy Guidelines and SADC Model Roaming Regulations.
Initiatives such ‘Home and Away’ roaming to reduce the costs of communicating across the region and ‘The Roam Like a Local’ project have also been key to our work in bringing down our regions telecommunication costs.

It was agreed that within the policies and laws of the respective countries regulators and, where appropriate, ministers will seek to get greater cooperation of the mobile operators for these initiatives.
The benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution for SADC means that our engagement here today become even more pressing. We require bold and forthright discussions around telecommunication costs to ensure the greater economic and societal integration of the region.
As such, I would like to thank the Senior Officials, the SADC Secretariat and its Subsidiary Agencies for the work done towards preparations for the Ministers Meeting. They have created the groundwork for innovation. An important factor in the successful implementation of changes will be committed leadership- and I am certain that as Ministers of Communications and ICTs we are ready for this challenge- SADC is ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution through ICTs”

I wish you fruitful deliberations in today’s session.

Thank You

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