Programme director, Mr Alfie Hamid,
Honourable Dr Chris Nhlapo, Deputy Vice Chancellor of CPUT,
Honorable Prof Bennett Alexander, HoD CPUT IT Department,
Honourable Mr Alpheus Mangale , Director of Cisco SA,
Honourable leaders of academic institutions from across the continent,
Ladies and gentlemen.
It is an honour to speak to you at this august occasion that highlights and entrenches the value of progressive partnerships in solving the challenges the world faces these days. Meaningful partnerships represent the way in which the Government of South Africa wants to tackle the challenges that are facing the country and our citizens.
We are humbled and in equal measure, inspired to be engaging with the refined minds of the academic and business leaders and those ever inquisitive brains of young students, many of whom are students in the academies that are run by governments in partnership with Cisco on the continent.
It is a privilege to be having this engagement with you on this Mandela Day month, when everyone is invited to celebrate the life of the great Tat’uNelson Mandela by taking action that inspires change that’ll make our world a better place to live in.
Let me take this opportunity to offer a warm welcome, on behalf of the Government of the Republic of South Africa, to all our visitors who are coming from different parts of our continent. We are indeed happy to host you and wish you a productive stay.
This gathering brings together some of the best IT minds and visionary leaders in the Sub Saharan region and may all of you learn from your peers and impart knowledge to your fellow Africans as we march towards inclusive information and knowledge societies across the continent.
The South African Government acknowledges that it is only through meaningful partnerships between the State, private sector, academia, civil society and the youth that we can demolish the frontiers of poverty, unemployment, underdevelopment and the social exclusion of our communities, especially the people who live in rural areas and those who are entrepreneurs or run SMMEs.
We can only deliver sustainable development with the right mix of political vision and will, the enterprising spirit of business that is couched in social consciousness and the energy of labour such that the undying flame of entrepreneurship glows ever so brightly.
This mixture is abudantly present across the continent. The continent is open for business and is willing to take the lead in finding solutions to its development challenges. The leaders of governments across the continent arefighting against underdevelopment on all fronts and infrastructure development is the most high profile programme in these efforts.
Last month we hosted the Inaugural ICT Indaba where 22 Ministers from the continent and one each from Brazil and South Korea. I was humbled by the realization thatmany governments on the continent take the challenge of rolling out ICT infrastructure very seriously.
The ministers declared that they commit to rolling out broadband infrastructure to 80% of the people by 2020.
In South Africa, the target is to rollout broadband infrastructure 100% by 2020. No state can afford the financial commitments required to deliver on these targets working on their own. We can meet these challenges through progressive partnerships.
As the Department, we are particularly proud of our partnership with the Department of Higher Education and Training and various service providers, through which we deliver valuable and scarce ICT skills and training to communities and teachers across the country, with a special focus on people who are in rural areas.
We are pursuing these through ensuring that we invest in the development of scarcee-Skills.
Through various initiatives, we have ensured that six Further Education and Training (FET) Colleges offer an accredited multi-media training course. We plan to add another two FET Colleges onto this programme.
In another intervention, the ICT Lecturer Development Programme; we seek to ensure that IT teachers are adequately capacitated to teach ICT and that ICT skills are delivered as part of the other qualifications. An example of this is how students of tourism are being taught basic computer skills.
We are doing this because we believe that embedding ICT skills within different qualifications will help improve the ability of graduates to find work or start their own businesses.
We have started discussions with the SA Graduate Development Agency to partner withother service providers to train graduates on their database in ICT skills. We need to consistently up skill and reskill our youth.
Our partnership with Cisco has enabled us to train 1 300 students in networkingcourses that deliver highly sought after skills.
The Government and the economy already use significant amounts of Cisco equipment, so it made sense to partner with the company to produce skills that will ensure that the use of this equipment is mastered locally and can be maintained using our citizens.
As a Department, we are heartened by the efforts of the private sector and academia to create centers of ICT excellence on the continent. The FET Colleges that are participating in our eSkills revolution have taken steps towards ensuring that our economy is sustainable and grows in a manner that creates jobs. We are excited about bringing the rest of the FET Colleges on board.
Our vision of connecting as many schools and tertiary institutions as possible to the internet is supported by a study by the International Telecommunication Union that showed that 46% of the population in developing countries is below the age of 25. The Measuring the Information Society 2011 report suggests that one of the most effective ways to increase internet use is to target the youth by connecting educational institutions and improving enrolment rates.
Our partnership with Cisco is also helping us to create and transfer skills to our citizens and develop an eSkills curriculum for the country. Through our interventions, we expect to significantly build human capital and nurture innovation for the information and knowledge-based economy in South Africa and the rest of the continent.
Ultimately, the key outcome of such partnerships will be our ability as a continent to convert knowledge into value that will uplift our communities. Africans have to be at the forefront of finding our own answers to the challenges the continent faces. ICT provides us with an opportunity to bridge the digital and development gap much faster than would ordinarily be possible.
Please allow me to indicate that while we appreciate the value of the partnerships we form within broader society, we are certainly not abdicating our responsibility to lead and regulate the sector. Each partner has to respect the space other partners operate in.
We have started on a right path. In April2012, we hosted the Intergrated ICT PolicyColloquium, in partnership with our social partners, to help us develop policies that can accelerate inclusive economic growth.
As the government, we shall continue to improve policy coherence and regulate, mainly for the benefit of the poor and the marginalized. Business has to assist usimprove skills capacity in our economy. Importantly, the aggressive implementation of our policies and programmes is at the heart of making society work.
Service delivery has to be felt by every citizen, not just the few who can afford expensive technology tools and gadgets.
With this matter cleared, it is therefore hardly surprising that business, especiallythose in ICT, understand the value of forming progressive partnerships because computer networking is essentially about collaboration.
In exploring the limits of this spirit of collaboration, we should relentlessly tackle the twin challenges of the high cost to communicate and cybersecurity.
Price or the affordability of communication services is deepening and entrenching the digital divide. But this has to change and the good news is that we all have a significant role to play.
With an increasing portion of our personal and corporate lives being lived online, it is crucial that we have secure networks and that we remain vigilant in ensuring that we protect all of the data that is available online. The faster development and economic growth in our continent depends on this.
Governments and businesses can increase the complexity of services they can deliver to citizen only through ultra secure networks.
Networks that are secure, accessible and have sufficient capacity can bring down thecost to communicate and the cost of delivering services.
Indeed, such networks can help to make applications such as Mxit, Facebook, Twittermore accessible to many more people, including those who are at the margins of society.
Antoine de Saint Exupery, the French writer, and pioneering aviator once said the following in the 1900.
"True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating things new. "
We wantthe young people to take heed of this comment, because many a young and enquiring mind have delivered great innovations.
An example of such enquiring young mind is George Stibitz, who is widely regarded as the father of computer networking.
History records that in 1937, Mr Stibitz realised that the electromechanical relaysthat were the chief components in telephone switching systems could be used to share data from two computers. His pioneering work in this regard laid the foundations for the computer networking industry which has done a lot to develop the world.
Young people need to look at the technologies that are available today and ask themselves what other world problem can be solve by using elements of modern technology.
As the youth asks these questions, governments and businesses needs to ask themselves what they are doing to ensure that young women are encouraged to be developers of networks, applications and other developmental technologies. In many instances women are only consumers of technologies and play a limited role in the development of technology.
We also need to find ways through which the many benefits of technological development reach people who are living with disabilities.
Partnerships that are nurtured through initiatives such as the African Networking Academy need to deliver ICT solution that propel the continent onto the information and knowledge economy superhighway.
As you deliberate about the impact of technology for Africa’s development, remember that playing your role in uplifting our communities is a fitting way to honour the legacy of great African leaders such as Nelson Mandela.
May your engagements over the rest of the week lead to more cutting edge solutions for the people of our wonderful country and continent.
Working together, we can all make our continent and the world great.