Director, Telecommunication Development Bureau of the ITU, Mr Brahima Sanou,
UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP representative, Dr Agostinho Zacharias
CEO of Telkom, Ms Pinky Moholi
Deputy Director-General of the e-Skills Institute, Dr Harold Wesso
Leaders of international organisations and country representatives,
Academics and intellectuals,
Business and Industry representatives,
Members of organised labour and civil society
Ladies and gentlemen,
Welcome to Cape Town and South Africa. If you’ve witnessed the beauty of the Mother City I’m sure you’ll realise why it was voted the World Design Capital of the Year 2014. South Africa is proud to host its 2nd e-Skills Summit and the International Telecommunications Union’s (ITU) Global ICT Forum on Human Capital Development.
The Department of Communication’s e-Skills Institute, the ITU and Telkom are proud hosts and supporters of this event.
We are honoured that we have with us delegates from across the globe, from Gambia to Canada; and Afghanistan to the USA. I’m sure this will guarantee us an exceptional learning experience.
Two years ago we hosted the first e-Skills Summit of South Africa to address the e-skills challenge faced by the country and to mobilise ourselves as a country in leveraging the potential of ICTs to build our knowledge society.
The theme for this summit is “Digital Inclusion: Preparing Human Capital for the Knowledge Based Economy.”
The theme is one of great significance for developmental states across the world, as it comes at a time when we in South Africa are embarking on a new path in building human capital or what we call “e-social astuteness” to deal with the wave of new technology engulfing our people.
The big challenge we face as South Africa and in many parts of the developing world revolves around equity – equity in opportunity, equity in capacity building, socio-economic equity, human equity, gender equity and the like. One thing that has become abundantly clear is that success in addressing equity in the 21st century will involve the social appropriation of ICTs for local benefit.
If we need reminding of the absolute hunger of people to socially appropriate ICTs for local benefit then we need look no further that the adoption of cellphone technology in Africa. The Economist has indicated that the world’s ten fastest growing economies since 2010 lie South of the Sahara. Africans are much richer than they were ten years ago.
And we can see this in the adoption of cellphone technology. Africa has over 695 million cellphone subscriptions and a cellphone penetration rate of 65 percent. For many African countries, South Africa included, the cellphone penetration rate is over 100 percent. We are indeed the mobile generation.
Nowhere is change more evident than in the unprecedented escalation of the capacity, mobility, affordability and accessibility of new forms of ICT.
And there can be no doubt that the biggest potential for useful impact of this technology is in dealing with inequity in developmental states which represent more than 50% of the global population.
The African population is on average much younger than that of the rest of the world, with 50 percent under the age of 20 years. This may account for its willingness to embrace cellphone technology.
This mobile mania is also being spread because the cellphone is not just a tool for communication but also a vehicle to access information, education, entertainment, banking services and health information. Mobile technology is empowering our continent and people like never before.
What we have found in South Africa is that we need to respond to the challenges and opportunities that this new technology brings to us, with new approaches that recognise that the social and cultural aspects are vital to dealing with inequity, prosperity, new forms of developing a creative economy and building a more self-reliant and resilient socio-economic base.
We have also learnt that we need to move past the ‘doing to’ and the ‘doing for’ paradigm into a ‘doing with’ approach and that the new forms of ICT can facilitate. There can be no doubt that that these new developments in ICT are ideally suited to making this ‘Africa’s time’.
The opportunities presented by these tremendous advances in mobile ICT have necessitated us having to aggregate policy across traditional government service departments, education, business, civil society and organised labour.
It has also impressed upon us the need to establish and provide a collaborative aggregation framework at the community level to achieve a positive impact against our national goals.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As a key recommendation of the first Summit, the Department of Communications, through its e-Skills Institute has commenced a process of establishing provincial Knowledge Production and Coordination Hubs (or collaboratories) at our local universities.
These provide a formal space for Government, Business, Education, Civil Society and Organised Labour to come together to coordinate efforts and create new applications more relevant to, more engaged with and more owned by the local actors.
This process is designed to ensure that the new technology is best fitted to local culture, local circumstances and local needs whilst being directly linked to the global environment and its innovation.
Such a process now recognises that we must concentrate on building local e-social astuteness amongst our people.
We need to be able to respond to our people’s needs regardless of formal educational qualifications and regardless of the complexity of the whole range of government service delivery options across a wide range of government departments.
We need to maximise effective access by the community and develop our inbuilt practical innovativeness in a new world that does not recognise the stove pipes that government agencies, business, education and civil society needs.
This concept of “e-social astuteness” is at the heart of the e-Skills Institute’s efforts as a catalytic, responsive, collaborative and innovative leader in building our human capital for equitable prosperity and global competitiveness in an increasingly ICT enabled world.
We have recognised that new technological developments will allow us to aggregate efforts across stakeholder groups in Business, Government, Education, Civil Society and Organised Labour in ways that make sense and can make a difference at the local level where innovation has to occur in order for us to deal with our embedded inequity.
Members of Academia,
The ability for mobile technology to solve major social problems in Africa is unprecedented. From health to education mobile technology is changing the way all sectors of society do business.
A PriceWaterhouse Coopers Survey entitled, “Touching lives through mobile health,” indicates that South Africa and Kenya are leading in mobile health deployments. While the applications in South Africa focus on improving the efficiency of healthcare workers, Kenya has witnessed a large number of awareness/prevention solutions, especially around HIV/AIDS.
In South Africa mobile technology is also changing the way we learn. The M-Ubuntu project uses mobile devices to support under-resourced teachers and assist matriculants. These are but some of the examples of how modern cellphone technology is enabling equity in the emerging information age.
The opportunity and concern facing South Africa is how to strengthen our research capacity to influence policy formulation.
We need to provide the leadership for our Universities and our FET Colleges to become more engaged with developing, monitoring and evaluating “e-social astuteness.” Our communities have demonstrated that they have an unquenchable appetite for these new forms of ICT and it is our responsibility to respond in new ways that make sense to them in developing their inbuilt creativity.
Clearly this means that we must develop new forms of collaborative intervention which can aggregate multi-stakeholder effort at the interface between them and our communities, to help them build their own answers to deep-seated and entrenched issues which are at the base of the huge inequities we need to deal with.
We are currently piloting this approach in six provinces in South Africa and we are very encouraged by the response which now involves more than 50 organisations across Government, State Owned Enterprises, Business, Education, Civil Society, donor agencies and donor countries and international agencies.
Our initial feedback and evaluation from across these bodies has been more than encouraging and we are finding that everybody wants us to provide strategic leadership and legitimacy in this space.
A very positive aspect is that whilst Government is providing leadership everybody welcomes the ‘hands off’ but ‘vitally interested’ approach by Government which ensures that all the stakeholder groups can meet their own targets within the mandate of the South African Government Strategic priorities.
It goes without saying that Innovation is at the centre of making successful change, in addressing major issues whether they be societal, technical, in science or in business.
The big question is how we channel and harness innovation to address the major issues we face as a Nation in South Africa. Lots of small innovations operating in isolation have a very difficult task in making impact on many of the priorities we face in our society
This then means that we need to focus on the nexus between ‘creativity,’ that is, unfettered free thought, and the structures or ‘architecture’ needed to harness the inbuilt creativity that exists in many, many people, whether they have high levels of formal education or not.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are building a unifying entity that can bring together the best abilities across Government, Business, Education, Civil Society and Organised Labour; one that can catalyse collaborative effort; one that can interact with our partners across Africa and in the developmental world;
one that can build new approaches to evaluating impact against the real challenges we face in dealing with inequity; one that looks beyond the technology to the social appropriation of ICT and one that builds “e-social astuteness” across the full spectrum of our society.
This Global ICT Forum on Human Capital Development, which encompasses the second e-Skills Summit of South Africa, not only addresses the aims of the ITU but also interacts with us and other developmental states to build our own approaches which recognise our own cultures to harness the existing astuteness of our people and grow it in ways that can maximise our position in an ICT enabled world.
The first e-Skills Summit held in 2010 involved more than 300 hundred thought leaders from South Africa and across the world and its deliberations formed the basis of the National e-Skills Plan of Action (NeSPA). This has guided us in our efforts over the last two years.
The e-Skills Summit which is a part of the activities of this week will allow us to revamp the NeSPA into NeSPA 2012-14 and guide us over the next two years.
As South African Minister for Communications, I am pleased that this Global ICT Forum on Human Capital Development is being held here, as it is in some useful way a recognition and a confirmation that we have something to offer, that we have been busy building a useful base over recent years, that we have been innovative and that we have a very good plan for our future.
In her new book, “Conversations with My Sons and Daughters,” renowned academic and anti-apartheid veteran Mamphela Ramphele asks:
“Where did we lose our idealism and why?”
Our efforts over the forthcoming days show that we have not lost the dream of a better South Africa and Africa, and an improved world. While our work may not make the front cover of The Economist, it has the potential to change the lives of millions of South Africans and others across the world.
And as Minister, can I say to you that we consider that we want to share, and we seek collaboration with all of you. There simply is not enough time for competition in this space, the costs of developmental states not working together in an ICT enabled world are simply to horrid to contemplate.
In closing, I am reminded of the adage that in the past people used to store information like gold but nowadays information is so prevalent that it is now like milk and if you don’t use it when it is fresh is goes sour and spoils. So please during the next few days I urge you to remember this and grow information, use information and share information before it goes sour. Thank you.