ICT4D South Africa
African countries are using Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in different ways to drive development. This piece examines some of the core issues in ICT4D in South Africa as part of an ICT4D policy assignment carried out in early 2010. There may have of course been updates in view of the dynamic nature of the ICT industry as well as ICT policy and environment changes that may have occurred in South Africa since then.
ICT4D Plans South Africa
The Department of Communications formulates the medium term strategic ICT plans with its mandate being: “To create a favourable ICT environment that ensures South Africa has capacity to advance its socio-economic development goals, support the renewal of Africa and build a better world.”
South Africa’s related Areas of focus – from the Department of Communications, South Africa Strategic Plan 2009 – 2012 – include:
Addressing high unemployment and poverty levels as well as the lack of employment-ready graduates required by the modern economy especially in the field of ICT. The plan identifies the need to focus on bridging the internal digital divides in South Africa – “to close the gap between the first and second economies and to integrate marginalized societies into the mainstream” by broadening participation in the ICT sector and improving ICT skills base in South Africa. In particular there is heavy focus on developing the Small Medium and Micro Enterprise (SMME) sector through the use of ICT and implementing local content strategy. Specific measures include: improving the uptake of ICT by SMMEs and the development of ICT SMMEs; support of SMMEs through ICTs in the arts and craft sector; support of SMMEs through ICTs in the tourism sector.
The ICT Small and Medium Enterprise Strategy is based on facilitating entrepreneurship spread and growth – setting up ICT Business Incubation centres in several provinces and setup of telecenters through private sector, civil society and government partnership. In addition, South Africa plans to use the broadcasting digital migration programme for SMME growth – electronics manufacturing and content generation.
Other related policy measures include ICT Strategies for Youth, Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Increase the ICT skills base in South Africa and Increase access to, and uptake and usage of ICTs.
Furthermore, in an effort to digitize its cultural heritage content, the Department launched a digital repository for the capture and preservation of heritage content.
Emphasis in South Africa is on ICT development for social harmony, integration and nation building through accelerated and sustainable economic growth in order to overcome the divisions of past, especially the historical inequalities. The strategy involves legislative and Multistakeholder engagement that stresses harmony in the SA ICT environment with the aim of developing an inclusive Information Society in South Africa. SA aims to achieve harmonization and coordination through partnerships and collaborative arrangements that involve the private sector, all levels of the public sector and NGO’s. Legislation is used to create an investment friendly environment.
PPP, Security, Investment
Interestingly, sometime in 2009, Public Private Partnership (PPP) effort brought down the cost to communicate as the Department worked with mobile operators Cell C, Vodacom, MTN and TELKOM to make calls much cheaper to allow the poor to benefit from communications. The Department also created an ICT Industry Forum for regular engagement with key stakeholders.
Private sector led activities include provision of ICT infrastructure for both the FIFA Confederations Cup as well as the FIFA 2010 Soccer World Cup, and development of local content and digital content industries and the ICT greening strategy to reduce the environmental impact of computer and electronic systems.
Notwithstanding existing legislation in South Africa that deals with cybersecurity, South Africa has shown the seriousness with which it views information security by also working on the formulation of a Cybersecurity policy that will be concerned with securing the South African cyber environment in a coordinated manner.
In terms of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), in April 2010, Microsoft announced an investment of approximately half a billion rand ($63 million) for the next seven years into the local software industry as part of Microsoft’s Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) program in South Africa.
BPO & O
South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry promotes Business Process Outsourcing and Offshoring (BPO&O) as a high-priority sector in South Africa. BPO&O has proven that it is a promising source of economic and employment growth. Due to the significant impact it has on the society and economy the BPO sector is given special priority attention in South Africa. It is one of South Africa’s fastest growing economic sectors providing considerable business and work opportunities. The Department of Trade and Industry facilitates the promotion of the BPO sector through funding assistance for investors, removal of obstacles in setup and operations, provision of incentives such as reduced telecommunications pricing for the BPO sector, global promotion of the South African BPO sector and the establishment of BPO Parks within South Africa.
SA Keep moving forward – With BPO&O, ICT4D for all, South Africa is making the right noises. But eyes must be kept on the ball. Quality management and monitoring will ensure that ICT drives development and improves quality of life in South Africa.