SPEAKING NOTES FOR THE DEPUTY MINISTER OF TELECOMMUNICATIONS AND POSTAL SERVICES, MS STELLA NDABENI-ABRAHAMS AT THE ICT YOUTH BOOTCAMP
The 4th Industrial Revolution in the South African context and the role ICT Youth SMMEs need to play
Leadership of Abuti Rams Consultancy
I extend warm greetings to you this morning.
It is indeed a pleasure to be in the presence of young people, captains of the ICT industry, who are congregated during this Global Entrepreneurship Week, to explore ways on how to grow your respective brands through digital platforms; and compete both locally and globally.
The era of the 4th Industrial Revolution is dominated by trends related to mobile technologies, cloud computing, smart connected devices, cyber physical systems and robotic technology; amongst many others.
It has seen the emergence of new energy supplies and technologies, Internet of Things (IOT), advanced manufacturing and 3D printing and artificial intelligence (IA).
The 4th Industrial Revolution presents opportunities to developing countries has the potential to raise global income levels, thereby improving the quality of life for people and opening up new markets due to improved technological innovation and.
As we move towards this industrial revolution, it is imperative to note that new technologies and digital platforms will increasingly enable citizens to engage with government by voicing their opinions in a coordinated manner, which will circumvent the supervision of public authorities.
The 4th Industrial Revolution will profoundly impact the nature of national and international security, affecting both the probability and nature of cyberspace and cyber-warfare.
In terms of business, it will invariably force big companies to re-examine the way that they conduct business by aligning with local innovators.
For communities, the 4th Industrial Revolution will not only change what society and people are used to doing daily but also of who they are; challenging cultural practices and traditions.
Inevitably, people will be required to have new sets of skills to access employment opportunities and career advancement.
The Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services has been tasked to facilitate a country approach on the 4th Industrial Revolution with all the relevant stakeholders.
In this respect, government has prioritised the development of SMMEs as a crucial milestone for employment, wealth creation, development of innovations and contribution to economy. This is supported by legislative and policy frameworks that support the development of SMMEs and cooperatives.
This includes, amongst others, the National Small Business Act which provides an overall legislative framework on the development of SMMEs across various sectors of the economy.
My Department has further developed the National ICT Integrated White Paper Policy, which provides the new policy framework for the ICT sector and specifically addresses barriers to entry for SMMEs to participate in the sector. This policy was approved by Cabinet in September 2016.
On the 1st November 2017, Cabinet also approved the ICT SMME Development Strategy, which is a sector specific intervention to address challenges facing SMMEs operating in the ICT sector.
The strategy proposes interventions to accelerate the development and growth of small enterprises in the ICT sector, whilst facilitating an increase in the levels of uptake and usage of ICTs by the general small business sector.
These interventions include, opening up of both the telecommunications and IT sectors for SMMEs to effectively participate and compete on providing ICT services.
My department, through partnerships with relevant key stakeholders, will also focus more on relevant skills development initiatives to respond to the 4th Industrial Revolution opportunities.
Such identified skills include: ICT and e-literacy, software and applications development, e-commerce, cloud computing, website development and web hosting, business and financial management skills.
We have also committed to forge partnerships with municipalities and key stakeholders to establish ICT Hubs in townships to support rural enterprises. This is in appreciating the need to decentralise services so as to benefit all citizens of the country.
However, as we forge ahead on this quest, it is worth noting that government continues to experience challenges in the rollout of SMME development programmes due to a lack of an integrated national database of SMMEs in the ICT sector.
There are many SMME groups including associations which are currently fragmented and are at various levels of development. The Department has responded to this challenge by creating a single integrated database of all SMMEs in the ICT sector so as to enable harmonisation and coordination of ICT SMME initiatives.
These are some of the interventions introduced by the ICT SMME Development Strategy, which aims to support start-up ICT enterprises, strengthen existing enterprises and extend support to potentially viable SMMEs.
I therefore urge you to read this important ICT Sector SMME Development Strategy.
As we embrace the 4th Industrial Revolution, we need to move towards diversified economies driven by productivity. Our economy need to develop more tech-savvy entrepreneurs who will be able to respond to technological developments as introduced by the 4th Industrial Revolution.
It is important to also leverage on opportunities presented by this technological revolution to address the socio-economic challenges that South Africa is facing. As entrepreneurs, let us remember that our primary motive is to solve problems in our community. As ICT entrepreneurs, let our drive be to use ICT technologies to provide solutions to our people through innovation.
With this being said, allow me to conclude by congratulating the programme organisers – Abuti Rams Consultancy – as this Bootcamp further serves as the official launch of digiTAAL – a training programme to support SMMEs in townships and rural areas who have minimal ICT Skills.
Let us continue to use ICT technologies to create jobs and reduce poverty in our country, and further improve and strengthen our township economy through innovative means.