The DCDT’s Transformation Strategy for 2023, the climate of Africa’s Digital Transformation in 2023 and hopes for the future of all Africa and Continental Collaboration on this Digital Transformation Initiative
Programme Director, Ministers &amp; Deputy Ministers, Esteemed Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen, Good morning,
We gather in the Mother City to participate in this year’s Sentech Africa Tech Week Conference, which offers us a unique opportunity to learn and collaborate on how the latest technology trends and innovations in the African Tech Industry ought to be used to resolve the continent’s societal challenges.
This conference brings together key stakeholders from across the tech industry, including policy makers, government officials, regulators, international governing bodies, entrepreneurs, disruptors, and big business and offers a platform for these players to connect and explore new business opportunities. It will also expose us to discussions on the latest trends, insights and best practise and help us identify new opportunities for growth on the continent. It is therefore critical for us to use this platform to position Africa as not just a consumer market, but a continent where new ideas, innovations and policy positions originate.
In October 2022, government adopted the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERRP) to drive interventions to improve the performance of the South African Economy. This would be achieved through expanded investment in infrastructure, restoring energy security, implementing reforms in network industries including telecommunications, broadcasting, transport, roads, and water infrastructure, and promoting industrialisation in key sectors including agriculture and tourism.
The ERRP was the culmination of a process which included social partners committed to implementing the Plan to boost growth, investment, and job creation. This conference is therefore aligned with government’s vision to use appropriate digital technologies for
economic development. The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies has several policies and initiatives to promote digital literacy, connectivity, skills development, and entrepreneurship to promote digital transformation in South Africa and on the continent.
Digital Transformation in Africa
The Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa (2020 – 2030) is in place with an overall objective to harness digital technologies and innovation to transform African societies and economies to promote Africa’s integration, generate inclusive economic growth, stimulate job creation, break the digital divide, and eradicate poverty for the continent’s socio- economic development and ensure Africa’s ownership of modern tools of digital management.
The Strategy contains specific objectives to drive digital transformation to propel industrialisation in Africa and contribute to the digital economy and support the The African Continental Free Trade Area, these include:
Build a secured Digital Single Market in Africa by 2030 where free movement of persons, services and capital is ensured and individuals and businesses can seamlessly access and engage in online activities in line with Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area.
Create a harmonised environment necessary to guarantee investment and financing by setting up a digital sovereignty fund to close the digital infrastructure gap and achieve an accessible affordable and secure broadband across demography, gender, and geography.
Harmonise policies, legislations and regulations and establish and improve digital networks and services with a view to strengthen intra-Africa trade, intra-investment and capital flows and the socio-economic integration of the continent, while maintaining a relational balance with other continents in the context of networked economies.
Entry into force of the African Union convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection by 2020 and for all Member States to adopt a complete set of legislation covering e-Transactions, Personal Data Protection and Privacy, Cybercrime and Consumer Protection.
Create awareness and counterbalance issues of Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection and Privacy.
Build inclusive digital skills and human capacity across the digital sciences, judiciary, and education, both technical and vocation, to lead and power digital transformation including coding, programming, analysis, security, block chain, machine learning, artificial intelligence, robotics, engineering, innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology, policy, and regulation.
Offer a massive online e-skills development program to provide basic knowledge and skills in security and privacy in digital environment to 100 million Africans a year by 2021 and 300 million per year by 2025.
Build a vibrant sector approach to digitalization of the agriculture, health and education sectors.
The DCDT Digital Transformation Strategy
As the department we are committed to using this strategy as a tool to ensure digital transformation in the country and to this end, we have developed policies and programmes which speak to highlighted areas in the strategy. The department’s digital transformation strategy focuses on 4 key areas:
Digital Skills and Talent
Stimulating Innovation and
On digital infrastructure, we are committed to the building of infrastructure that will ensure agile and universal connectivity and this comes from the realisation that universal internet connectivity alone is not enough to keep countries digitally competitive in the 4IR, rather, connectivity efforts must evolve to help countries to develop safe and secure ‘smart’ ecosystems so that they can keep pace with the technological frontier.
In this regard, South Africa’s policy talks to technology neutral connectivity, underpinned by the SA Connect programme of connecting schools, clinics, frontline government services, public libraries, and traditional authorities, this is to ensure that we close the digital divide and ensure that rural and remote areas enjoy equal access and services as the urban areas.
The department published the Rapid Deployment Policy and Policy directions in March 2023 to ensure a more efficient and expedited rollout of digital infrastructure. This policy is complemented by model bylaws for deployment of electronic communication networks and facilities that will go a long way in stimulating investment in digital infrastructure throughout the country and particularly in underserved areas. These two programmes including the spectrum licensing are part of the Operation Vulindlela Programme to unlock investment constraints in the digital economy.
Our investor-friendly policies have made it possible for the landing of a plethora of submarine cables on our shores which makes South Africa a digital hub and thus attracting investment in data centres, digital infrastructure, and cloud services and this should translate into the reduction of the cost to communicate, expansion of local content created for government and citizens to accelerate the uptake and usage of digital technologies.
Through several programmes in government, we seek to stimulate investment in digital infrastructure by subsidising SMMEs particularly those of youth, women located in underserved areas.
As a department, we are also hard at work to finalise the Cloud and Data Policy, which will create a conducive environment for the investors and partners to establish networks and do business in South Africa in this regard, our main concern will be data protection and ensuring that as the international partners invest in the South African and African market, we consider critical principles such as data security, data sovereignty in the flow of data across our borders.
A key component of agile digital infrastructure is cybersecurity and ensuring that the network is secure for all users. Our priority remains securing all digital infrastructure in the country and in this regard the Cybersecurity Hub was established in 2015 as mandated by the National Cybersecurity Policy Framework which was passed by Cabinet in March 2012 ad this is the designated National Computer Security Incident Response Team of South Africa. Cybersecurity is the shared responsibility of all social partners.
Digital Skills and Talent for a Digitally Transformed Society
The National Development Plan (NDP) vision 2030 envisages that the internet will underpin the development of a dynamic information society and knowledge economy, which is more inclusive and prosperous, and as such, skilling the nation is essential for the country’s growth. Digital talent will be one of the key enablers of digital transformation and we recognise the increasing demand for digital skills, both in the workplace and for vitality.
Many companies have had to upskill their workforce due to the demand for a workforce that is proficient in areas such as coding, digital marketing, artificial intelligence, data analytics, cybersecurity, and cloud-based technologies. We need to build on human capital and focus on niche skills that are needed for the digital economy to make South Africa competitive globally.
In this regard, government adopted the National Digital and Future Skills Strategy in 2020 and in the main, this is a strategy to train young, unemployed South Africans in various digital skills. The focus is on training in areas of data science, robotics, Artificial Intelligence, machine learning and cloud computing. These skills are not only for productivity in South Africa, but we want to export them for use in the continent and globally as many international partners are opening data centres for business process outsourcing.
To massify this skills bank, we are partnering with universities, technical colleges, international institutions, and online learning platforms to train South African youth and this has led to several initiatives aimed at attracting and retaining digital talent in South Africa including internships, apprenticeships, scholarships, and incentives such as tax breaks for digital start-ups.
Encouraging local innovation is critical as the solutions respond to local problems faced. This is a basic condition and pre-cursor for realising potential of telecommunications and digital technologies in all spheres of life, especially for Africa. This is important in ensuring that no- one is left behind for secure connectivity in modern day society that is ripe for digital entrepreneurship and innovation, in particular opportunities for those in rural and remote communities.
In response to the draft National Integrated Enterprise Development masterplan, which highlighted the issue of access to market as a critical enabler for the development of sustainable SMMEs, including opening market opportunities for locally developed innovative technological solutions, the department developed a Digitech portal.
The Digitech portal is developed to promote South African products in other markets whilst facilitating partnerships with other organisations on co-promotion of local technologies. The objective in support of the NDP is to ensure that SMMEs unlock an estimated 90% of the 11 million expected new jobs, deliberate interventions would need to be put in place.
One of the key issues we always remember is that too many South Africans do not work, as the National Development Plan indicates and it is for that reason that generating employment and livelihoods should be priority for all of us, this employment should not only be directly in digital services, but also in the value chain generated.
Among the key issues is to not only be consumers of products that make up the infrastructure and devices of the digital age, but also be part of the producers. The availability of a skills base for digital technologies must also include the ability to produce to bridge the gap in industrialisation on the continent and globally.
The availability of key minerals for the digital age in our country, and in neighbouring countries positions us to be producers, to add value to our natural heritage. Thus, cutting off the cycle of poverty, unemployment, and inequality.
In conclusion, many of the stakeholders here today were at the South African Investment Conference hosted by the President, HE Cyril Ramaphosa two weeks ago. They would have also made investment pledges. We hope that this conference will facilitate more investment in South Africa’s digital economy, build our digital infrastructure, build our human capacity, particularly women, young people, and differently abled people, and finally transform the digital economy to be accessible to all South Africans and the continent at large.
I now declare this conference open. I thank you.
Source: Government of South Africa