Programme Directors, Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the SACF
Ministers and Deputy Ministers
CEOs and Captains of Industry
Members of the South African Communications Forum
Ladies and gentlemen
I would like to thank the South African Communications Forum (SACF) for allowing me to address this momentous occasion. The SACF has over the last eleven years played a significant role in bringing together role-players from the public and private sectors and civil society. This with the aim of reducing socio-economic inequities through the use of Information Communications and Technology (ICTs).
As government we appreciate the efforts of the SACF in uniting the sector and allowing us to reach common ground, even when we are at opposite ends of the spectrum.
It is an honour for me to find myself in such esteemed company. We are here to celebrate the appointment of new leaders in this industry. However, I see before me many old hands who have been at the forefront of change in the South African ICT industry. It imbues me with confidence that this sector is being led by many who have years of experience under their belts.
Although this month marks my first year as Minister of Communications I am glad that this has been preceded by a substantial spell as Deputy Minister of Communications. So I too am somewhat of an old hand in the communications sector.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today we celebrate the appointment of a number of ‘new’ CEOs to the sector. My congratulations go out to Shameel Joosub of Vodacom, Alan Knott-Craig of Cell C, Puleng Sejanamane of Broadband Infraco and the rose among these men, our very own Ms Lulama Mokhobo of the SABC. I look forward to developing a close and fruitful working relationship with you.
Together I am certain that we can take South Africa to the pinnacle of achievement in the ICT sector. It is vital that we position South Africa as a leading light in ICT on the continent.
South Africa has come a long way since those first brick cellphones captured the public’s imagination. Today it is possible to virtually run your office from your cellphone. The advances in technology have brought new challenges and new opportunities.
South Africa as a country has been slow to respond to these opportunities. As leaders in the sector I call upon you to intensify your efforts to assist in expanding the sector across its length and breadth. When we look back at the second decade of the 21st century we must do so with pride at our achievements.
The International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) report, "Measuring the Information Society 2012", released last week displayed some interesting figures. It has two rankings which are of concern to South Africa. The ICT Development Index (IDI) ranks 155 countries' performance with regard to ICT infrastructure and uptake. The ICT Price Basket (IPB) tracks and compares the cost and affordability of ICT services in more than 160 countries globally.
In the ICT Development Index South Africa slipped one position to 91 while we are ranked at number 98 in the ICT Price Basket, making us the fourth cheapest country in Africa for the provision of ICT services.
While the markets and conditions are different it is unfortunate that in Africa, internet connectivity prices were almost seven times higher than in the Americas, and 20 times higher than Europe in 2011. We still have some way to go towards making affordable internet access a reality for all South Africans.
Facts and figures notwithstanding, South Africa still maintains a leadership role on the African continent in terms of ICT development. On the back of a very successful ICT Indaba, last week I attended the Universal Postal Union’s (UPU) Congress in Doha, Qatar. The UPU regulates global postal services and is tasked with ensuring that the postal sector remain relevant in the digital age.
The innovative use of ICT by the South African Post Office to geo-code addresses allows anyone with a GPS to find any home or business address. It is this type of creativity that has won us the approval of our African counterparts.
The Congress witnessed South Africa’s election to the Council of Administration and the Postal Operations Council. South Africa’s unified leadership also saw Kenya’s Bishar A. Hussein elected as Director-General of the UPU. What is obvious is that other African countries look to South Africa as a unifying force on the continent. Our role of providing assistance, guidance and leadership is one that other African countries are grateful for and is increasingly being recognised.
Developing countries are playing an important role in telecommunication revenues and investments. Between 2007 and 2010, both telecom revenues and investment continued to grow by 22% in developing countries.
It is well-known that developing countries now account for the lion’s share of mobile growth. The ITU report indicates that the ICT sector has become a major contributor to economic growth.
In 2010, global exports of ICT goods accounted for 12% of world merchandise trade, and as much as 20% in developing countries. I urge you to take advantage of South Africa’s leadership role on the continent to benefit from this surge in ICT investment.
Captains of industry,
As you are well aware our mobile penetration rate exceeds 100 percent. While mobile technology serves as an important tool for communication, it is television that is the most important disseminator of information for our people.
Early this month we launched the Proof of Concept for Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT). As we move towards digital migration let me add that Government will provide a 70% subsidy towards the cost of the Set Top Boxes or decoders to 5 million of the poorest TV-owning households.
The specifications for the decoders include internet capability and will ensure that millions of South Africans are given a ticket to the digital age. We envisage that the commercial rollout of DTT will occur in December.
Our Broadband Strategy and Implementation Plan has been finalised. We would like to set aside a day to discuss this with the industry and would like this to happen before the end of the year. We would like to know your thoughts on the path we are charting. We remain steadfast in achieving our target of 100 percent broadband penetration by 2020.
The Department of Communications is committed to providing a stable policy environment that will catapault South Africa to the forefront of ICT development. Essential to this is the role that women can play in the sector.
It is no secret that transformation in the industry has been slow. It only took 9 years for the ICT Charter to be finalised. Outside of areas where there is state influence, you would be hard-pressed to find women occupying leadership positions.
The South African Communications Forum has as its goal the bridging of the digital divide and the creation of an information society. The Department of Communications has similar objectives and we are working to ensure that we provide the kind of leadership that will transform this industry. For us this means placing women at the forefront of the ICT sector.
Last Thursday, 11th October, was the first United Nations International Day of the Girl Child. To mark that day the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) launched a “Tech Needs Girls Prize,” an international technology competition designed to encourage more girls to embrace technology.
With over 95% of jobs having a digital component and the ICT industry worldwide experiencing a decline in the number of women entering the profession, the competition targets girls between the ages of 9 to 18 at a time when their perceptions about the industry are being formed, and their career paths are being chosen.
There is a lack of awareness among students, teachers and parents on the wide variety of possibilities that a career in ICT can offer. I am glad to report that the Department of Communication’s Gender and ICT Strategy has been finalised. This Strategy includes a number of initiatives that seek to ensure the entrance and inclusion of women throughout the ICT sector.
The Techno-Girl programme places girls from disadvantaged backgrounds in a structured job-shadowing programme. During the June school holidays the Department of Communications hosted 10 schoolgirls as part of this initiative. It exposed them to the world of work and the dynamic ICT field in a manner that no career guidance lesson could. We encourage you to do the same.
Let me also mention our flagship programme which is the e-Cadre programme. The e-Cadre programme trains young people between the ages of 18 and 25 in the universally accredited International Computer Driving Licence.
As you can see our initiatives are aimed at nurturing and developing leaders at all levels. Which is why today I am thrilled to announce the launch of the Women in ICT Forum. As part of government’s broader goal towards the empowerment of women and the attainment of gender equality, the Women in ICT Forum will develop the next generation of women leaders in the industry.
We need to provide women in the sector with the exposure and experience vital to ensure their success. Our country has a rich history of women trailblazers and we need to breach the final frontier in the ICT field. I am sure that I can count on your full support to fostering this project.
The next time we meet I would like to see more women leaders occupying this room. Working together we can transform the ICT industry by fully utilising all the human capital at our disposal.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The African ICT Minister’s declaration reiterated our desire to eradicate poverty through the promotion and use of ICTs to build and foster a people-centred knowledge-based economy. We look forward to working closely with the private sector, as we have done in the past, to ensure that this becomes our reality.
In closing let me leave you with the words from the National Development Plan:
“By 2030, ICT will underpin the development of a dynamic information society and knowledge economy that is more inclusive and prosperous. A seamless information infrastructure will meet the needs of citizens, business and the public sector, providing access to the wide range of services required for effective economic and social participation - at a cost and quality at least equal to SA's competitors.”
I thank you.