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ICT, economic empowerment and job creation, by the DoC

This blog post reports on a meeting with the DoC on the 19 August 2011. The title of the meeting was:

"Connecting the ICT Sector for economic empowerment and job creation"

Most interestingly, the Vision of the DoC was given as:

"South Africa as a global leader in the development and use of Information and Communication Technologies for Socio-Economic Development."  Wow!

The format of the meeting was:
* Introductions
* A brief address by the Deputy-Minister
* Extensive Q&A session

The new DoC ministry is focusing on 4 projects. These have been explained in numerous press releases:

1. Access and broadband projects. This includes the merger of Infraco and Sentech, which should go ahead.

2. The introduction of Digital TV by 2014.

3. The Postbank roll-out.

4. The further development of the newly established e-Skills Institute.

The ministry also explained how it sees itself creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in the following years through direct funding. 160'000 jobs should be created in the set top box industry. 25'000 jobs should be created in the broadband access arena. Interestingly, 8'500 jobs were earmarked for content creation. These hypothetical figures were strongly questioned by industry. 

Regarding the panel discussion:

Most of the questions from industry (perhaps 60%) focused on the set top boxes and the vast number of jobs to be created. What kinds of companies would benefit? and similar questions were explained. The DoC is looking at 100% local manufacture, as well as using local design for a broad range of set top boxes.

The e-Skilling Institute also drew many questions. Mostly, the questions revolved around the involvement of SMME's in the e-SI, basic operations and goals of the e-SI, etc. The e-SI will introduce new curricula for instance "e-centre managers". These sound like some kind of combination of Village Operators and Village Scribes (or e-Community Development Workers).

Other questions were directed at the poor functioning of USAASA and ICASA. The DoC maintained that improving leadership in these areas was being given attention. 

The industry panellists from PwC had only one answer to make during the two hour discussion, which was related to the previous point. Their comment was that good leadership and stability in the country were essential to the development of any commercial eneterprise. That also meant transparent regulatory bodies, which made business predicatable. The question had been asked by eKhaya ICT, namely to comment on the jobs stats distribution and sustainability that had been presented, especially in the light that services on top of the pipe were the focus of most Western ICT companies these days. The DoC was visibly pleased to have representation from the Eastern Cape, especially Dr. Wesso, and several allusions during the discussion with industry from both sides were made to the potential of Information Services to create jobs.

In conclusion, it seems to me that the DoC is focusing on infrastructure and access projects (including Digital TV) in the near future, since there is uncertainty about the Informational element in ICTs.  The problem with the Internet and content creation is that it requires cooperation between departments. The example mentioned was in the film industry, the DAC also funds content creation (local movie production). Further examples can easily be introduced in terms of Education, Health and Strategic Planning (StatsSA).

Posted: September 1st 2011 07:55

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