The Hon. Prof. Hlengiwe Mkhize, Deputy Minister of South Africa’s Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, took to the stage at AfricaCom this morning to highlight the importance of information and communications technologies for socio-economic development in Africa.
“As a newly established Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, we appreciate an opportunity to come and share ideas with such a distinguished audience” the Minister said.
She highlighted the Department’s objectives: “Much of the ICT revolution is driven by the private sector but as a government we have realised that we have an important role to play in aligning policies with the possibilities emerging from the private sector. What we’ve struggled with is the digital divide. The cost of communications is unreasonably high in societies where it is needed the most".
Broadband access is a key priority: “In 2014 South Africa had an internet penetration rate of about 40%. There is a significant growth but it tends to be concentrated in the ‘golden’ cities like Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and East London. Our target in terms to achieve 100% broadband penetration by 2020”.
She mentioned education, e-government, e-health and mobile financial services as key elements of ICT development: “We are investing a lot in e-government. We see the use of technology as a real enabler. People who access services online tend to have higher levels of satisfaction, so it calls for a clear e-strategy.”
She called for increased cooperation between industry stakeholders and recognised the important support that regulators and governments can give the industry: “we are aligning our policy strategies with the regulators and ensuring we promote a competitive environment. I invite you to look carefully at partnerships and to take advantage of the tax breaks and the many opportunities that governments are availing.” In terms of spectrum allocation, the department is in the process of auditing the needs and she acknowledged the clear need for new allocation toward ICT development.
Overall the Minister emphasized the importance of developmental goals: “The biggest commodity in the world today is knowledge. Strategic investment in the ICT sector will allow Africa to take its right place in the world”.
AfricaCom continues in Cape Town until Thursday 19th November.