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Source: The Presidency
Title: Mbeki: SAP South Africa's Sapila Conference Banquet
ADDRESS BY THE PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA, THABO MBEKI, AT THE SAP
SA's SAPILA CONFERENCE BANQUET, Sun City, 30 September 2002
Master of Ceremonies,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I would like to thank the organisers of this event, SAP South
Africa, members of the Thabo Mbeki Crossroads Education Fund and
other sponsors and partners for giving us the opportunity to
interact with representatives and leaders of the business
I am told that this year we mark the tenth anniversary of SAP South
I would therefore like to extend my congratulations to SAP. I trust
that the leaders of SAP with us here will be able to enjoy
themselves with their partners and clients with a view to
celebrating even more successful decades while making whatever
contribution you can, in the development of our country.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the many
companies and individuals who have supported the Thabo Mbeki
Crossroads Education Fund since its inception. We appreciate the
fact that you have offered generous contributions and support to
ensure that the Fund succeeds in its work of assisting students,
especially those in our society who have no resources to pursue
their chosen careers.
Clearly, the partnership that the Crossroads Education Fund has
with business organisations, many of which are represented here
tonight, has enabled the Fund to address, even though in a humble
way, one of the challenges facing our country - which is the issue
of the scarcity of skills in areas such as commerce, science and
technology, engineering, information and communication technology
and other related fields.
This you have done, not only as donors, but also as active
participants in the operations of the Fund. In so doing, you have
demonstrated how our business community can marshal its will and
resources to promote the development of our people.
As you may be aware, the Crossroads Education Fund was established
in 1996 by people who lived in, worked with and represented the
residents of Crossroads, a poor township outside Cape Town that
fought many difficult and costly battles merely to exist.
From supporting some fifty students in 1996, the Fund has since
supported 250 students at institutions such as University of
Western Cape, the Peninsula and Cape Technikon and the University
of Cape Town, up to early 2000.
Between 1999 and 2000, the work of the Fund took on a national
character when it began to support students at the University of
Witwatersrand, the Wits, Pretoria and Port Elizabeth Technikon, and
University of Durban Westville.
As Patron of the Fund, I am happy to express my heartfelt
appreciation of the work undertaken by the Trustees and the support
they have received from many individuals and corporations. Much of
the work was undertaken in an environment of limited resources and
insufficient capacity at the operational level of the Fund.
I am happy that the Fund has since late 2001, begun laying the
foundations for a more sustainable operating environment and has
focused on developing a much clearer plan of action and activity
for the future.
We have been informed that some of the most prominent and leading
suppliers and consumers of information technology products and
services are here with us tonight.
It is important that this important and strategic leadership of our
society finds a way to make more contribution in a practical and
visible manner towards the imparting of information and
communication technology skills to our communities, so as to ensure
that we have a rich pool of skilled people who will enhance the
country's capacity and competitiveness in this important
In this way, you will be, at the same time, expanding the ICT
market as more and more South Africans become consumers of your
products. I am sure, we will agree that this makes perfect business
Further, given the central and strategic nature of this sector to
the economy, we have evolved a process of regular government and
business consultation on ICT matters. This is important because we
have to address, on a regular basis, issues of mutual concern at
policy, implementation and application levels.
Accordingly, we have formed two structures to facilitate discussion
and common action in the area of ICT as part of our quest to
develop a modern economy and society. These are the Presidential
National Commission on Information Society and Development as well
as the Presidential International Advisory Council on Information
Society and Development.
The latter structure includes the major global leaders in the area
of information and communication technology. We are privileged to
have Dr Hasso Plattner as a member of this International
The International Advisory Council on Information Society and
Development met recently in George to discuss, among other things,
economic growth and competitiveness, research and development and
the implementation of an e-government programme.
At this meeting, the International Advisory Council agreed with the
government's strategies, which draw on earlier discussions with the
We therefore agreed to go further to discuss concrete programmes
and projects for implementation.
Three key focus areas were identified. These are:
* Health and telemedicine,
* Small, medium and micro enterprise growth and development;
It was agreed that we would also focus on e-government as an
overarching and cross-cutting element common to all three areas and
because e-government is a necessity for the efficient and effective
operation of government.
I mention the decision at our last meeting with the International
Council because I believe that, as South Africans, we have the
opportunity to contribute to a speedy and effective impact of these
In this regard, we agreed with the International Council that from
now onwards, we should integrate the work of the National and
International Councils. Accordingly, in future the Councils will be
able to sit together to address the common agenda.
I am certain that this will help us the more effectively to impact
on the identified area of health especially to improve the lives of
our people in the remote areas of our country, demonstrating that
modern technology provides us with a tool to fight and defeat
disease and underdevelopment.
Also, I am sure you will agree with me that the growth and
development of small, medium and micro enterprises can and must
benefit from the available technology so that we are able to expand
access to technology to the wider community of our business people
to encourage business growth and improve the level of
competitiveness even among the smaller corporations.
Clearly, one of the critical and important elements of the
challenges of modern technology is in the area of education. In
this context, the following elements are urgent:
* Ensuring Infrastructure and the IT architecture, including
related basic infrastructure such as electricity and
* Teacher development in Information and Communication
* Increasing access to education through distance learning;
* Curriculum development, including integrating ICT education in
our school system;
* The establishment of the Advanced Institute of ICT;
* Establishing information and communication technology centres in
schools that could help communities and small businesses.
I must also mention the fact that ICT has also been identified in
the New Partnership for Africa's Development, NEPAD, as one of the
priorities on which our continent and its global partners must
focus. I have no doubt that the work we are doing and will do in
this country, supported by the National and International Advisory
Councils, will also be of enormous benefit to Africa as a
As I have said, all these are the challenges that directly face all
of us who are gathered here tonight. My appeal to this business
leadership of our country is to find appropriate ways to advance
this important sector of our society and build partnerships with
both government - at national, provincial and local levels - as
well as specific communities.
One of the practical ways may be to adopt specific areas or sectors
and work on ICT programmes together with local stakeholders - in
the form of schools, local authorities or community structures -
and put in place practical and achievable short, medium and long
term objectives; but always informed by the understanding that
visible results will not necessarily be achieved over-night.
At the national level, as we are certainly aware that the effective
use of ICT in any country impacts strongly on the productivity and
competitiveness of that economy as well as the ability of
government to deliver on its social goals. This is the reason that
we see the development of ICT in education as an important and
necessary priority for us as well.
In this regard, experience from other countries, whatever their
stage of development, shows that factors that accompany the
successful application of ICT in schools are networks of
connectivity and structured and continuous programmes to train
teachers to use modern technology for educational purposes.
It is also clear that to ensure fast and effective development, ICT
programmes should, at an early stage, be integrated into the
teaching and learning processes, as well as the administration and
Entire communities need to be exposed to the benefits of ICT and
positive attitudes created towards the cultivation of awareness and
everyday access and use of this technology so as to bring all our
people into the information age.
Education, and thus the development of the human resource capital
amongst our people is surely one of the prerequisites for closing
the digital divide. Yet, for the year 2000 of all registered matric
pupils, only 34.4% registered for science (11.6% on higher grade)
and 60.3% registered for mathematics (8% for higher grade). These
enrolment rates are clearly unacceptable. The situation is even
more alarming when viewed in the light of pass rates.
Perhaps more worrying, is the enrolment and pass rates in these
subjects for black students. The estimated number of black pupils
enrolling for mathematics in the higher grade constitutes only 5.9%
of all black matric pupils, while only 9.7% of all black matric
pupils enrol for physical science at the higher grade. Again, this
becomes more disturbing when we look at the pass rates for black
students in these two critical subjects.
Clearly, this makes our common challenge that much greater.
Government on its own cannot deliver the resources and skills
required to close the digital divide within our society. Thus, we
make this urgent plea to all of our people, but especially to the
business community, to unite and form an active coalition to meet
this challenge of promoting mathematics, science and ICT both in
schools and communities.
The Trustees of the Crossroads Education Fund recently informed me
of their plans for the Fund. I must say that I was delighted to
hear that these plans are linked and synchronised with our own
National ICT Strategy.
Embodied within the development of a vision, mission and guiding
principles for the Fund, consideration is being given to the
* Extension of the current focus on the IT sector to cover broader,
human capital development within the national context;
* Linking the work and output of the Fund with the National ICT
Strategy in the context of e-education;
* Ensuring that the Fund evolves as an effective facilitator for
private/public partnership projects; and,
* Evolving a specific role on bridging the 'digital divide' by
promoting and supporting the socio-economic potential of increased
IT literacy within South Africa.
I am sure that the distinguished guests here will find the
programmes of the Fund to be relevant to their own business
operations. This should encourage the establishment of lasting
collaborative relations that should help the development and
prosperity of our country.
I hope that this interaction will foster the on-going engagement of
local and international partners and together with the Education
Fund make a contribution in our work of narrowing the digital
To achieve the tasks the Fund has set for itself, the Trustee base
has been expanded and now includes executives from the private and
public sectors and individuals who understand and are practitioners
within the ICT sector.
It is to strengthen this relationship that the Fund felt it
opportune to be present at this function organised by SAP this
evening. We are therefore very pleased that you have made it
possible for us to speak, not just about the Crossroads Education
Fund, but about some of the broader common challenges that we
I trust that you will be able to meet and network with the Trustees
of the Fund and look forward to our continuing and deepening
partnership as we work further to empower all our people and make
ours the winning nation we all wish it be.