Address by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe on the occasion of the official opening of the Information, Communication and Technology Indaba, Cape Town
05 June 2012
Programme Director, Stella Tembisa Ndabeni;
Deputy Secretary-General of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Mr Houlin Zhao;
Secretary-General of Africa Telecommunications Union (AFU);
Secretary-General of Pan African Postal Union (PAPU);
Ministers and Deputy Ministers;
Members of the Western Cape Executive Council;
Members of Delegation from Participating African States;
Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Representatives from the Various Parliaments
Leaders and Partners from the ICT Sector;
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is an honour to welcome you to this ICT Indaba which draws together governments, leaders and business representation from Information, Communication and Technology Sector from various states across Africa.
It is indeed humbling to have you on our shores and I trust that you have found our country and people warm and welcoming.
As I am sure you have experienced since your arrival, our country boasts a rich tapestry of various cultures, art, heritage, adventure, wildlife and tourism, among others.
Should you have the opportunity on the sidelines of the conference to sample some of these offerings, we invite you to indulge in these and to enrich the unique and holistic experience of a nation united in its diversity and alive with lots of possibilities.
I wish to begin by expressing our appreciation for the opportunity to address this all-important event, the official opening of the ICT Indaba.
I am personally encouraged by the overwhelming interest that this inaugural ICT Indaba has stimulated as shown by the presence of experts and leaders of the sector, both in government and business, from around the world.
Information and Communications Technology presents an opportunity for Africa to expedite its growth and development.
For the record, through the Africa Connect goals adopted by the African Union Heads of State and Government, we have committed ourselves to be in the forefront of the information revolution.
In 2011, only 5.7 percent of the population of Africa had access to internet. In global comparison, while Africa accounts for 14 percent of the world population, only 3.6 percent of internet subscribers are Africans.
The above statistics should be a cause for concern for us as the leadership of Africa. Surely we can do more to improve access to ICT by ensuring more connectivity to local schools, libraries, science centres, health centres, in both urban and rural areas.
In this regard we should increase our efforts to achieve the goals of the World Summit on Information Society 2005, which committed the world to the adoption of ICTs for the development of our nations.
The hosting of this ICT Indaba on the African continent is a valuable platform upon which African countries and other developing nations can accelerate socio-economic development through ICTs as critical enablers.
We know that 70% of employees in the developed world are knowledge-workers in some form or another.
It is within the bounds of possibility for Africa to do the same by getting all basics right in order to embark on an irreversible pursuit of knowledge-based economy.
To this end, this ICT INDABA is a critical platform for us to consider amongst others, the development of Africaís knowledge-based economy, creating conducive conditions for Foreign Direct Investment in Information and Communication Technologies, developing ICT infrastructure and growing the ICT industry as part of Africaís growth and development strategies.
While we cannot downplaying the role of primary or traditional industries , we must remain aware that the biggest commodity in the world today is knowledge, and the ability to generate, access, and distribute knowledge have become key determinants for a higher developmental trajectory for any nation.
In this case we can learn a thing or two from the experience of South Korea whose GDP per Capita in 1960 was equal to that of Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon.
However within 30 years, South Korea has managed to propel itself to among the top 8 richest economies in the world by setting up a knowledge-based economy.
The one thing we can be sure of is that setting up a knowledge-society allows us to adapt to changing conditions and design solutions that will enhance the competitiveness of our emerging Nations.
There is no doubt that ICT is the key to knowledge sharing and access to information.
For this Indaba of immediate concern should be, among others, the low rankings associated with African countries when studying most reputable global indicator systems which measure the extent of penetration of ICTs.
If one considers the ICT Development Index released by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which focuses on ICT infrastructure, access, usage and uptake and capacity, no African country is in the top 50 of the 154 world countries which were measured.
Mauritius is the highest ranked African country at position 69.
The World Bank regularly releases the Knowledge Economy Index which focuses on economic and institutional regime, educated and skilled people, innovation systems, and information communication technologies and on that measurement Africa does not have a country in the top 100 either.
With this in mind, we must try to find appropriate responses in areas such as:
∑ reliability of our policy environment and its ability to foster Foreign Direct Investment confidence;
∑ the strength and credibility of our regulatory framework to facilitate cost reduction and ensure secure networks;
∑ the availability of appropriate skills to ensure that we acquire the critical mass of human capital to drive a robust knowledge-based economy ;
∑ adequate funding to ensure universal access to broadband and ICTís services.
Improving Africaís information communication technologies is a precondition for improving its productive industrial capacity.
Studies by the World Bank have also highlighted the positive impact that investment in broadband penetration can have on GDP growth. A 10% increase in broadband penetration generates an additional 1.4% increase in GDP Growth for developing countries.
A key challenge is therefore to increase broadband penetration so that we can realise the associated benefits for countries within Africa.
We are required to accelerate investment in broadband infrastructure to achieve the higher growth in the information and communications technology.
We believe that strategic investment in the ICT sector will allow Africa to increasingly play an important role in the development of new applications and technological innovations that are relevant for the needs of our continent, and that this will ensure a continued multiplier effect on economic growth.
African countries can provide the innovators for future technological development in ICT that can in turn continue to drive economic and social development on the continent, through developing innovations and applications relevant to the needs of our peoples.
I am informed that this ICT Indaba will look at the impact of some of the Policy and Regulatory measures required to ensure that we move towards a knowledge-based economy. This necessarily calls for a particular focus on pre-requisites for broadband development.
As Africans our task is to consider some of the international best practises in other emerging markets with respect to skills development, economic interventions, and the successful development of Smart Cities in developing countries; all of which have helped to re-position countries in terms of their economic development through the ICT sector.
Similarly, we need a closer policy discussion at infrastructure development initiatives in Africa while reviewing the alternatives to leapfrog to a higher development level by leveraging on smart technologies and policy.
As we review the various options at hand we also need to bring on board green technologies and entrepreneurs in this space to enhance this flourishing ICT industry and fostering a culture of eco-friendly innovation.
In doing so, we could sample some of the innovations that would fast track the growth of the continent while addressing the needs of entrepreneurs in terms of access to capital.
We must also not forget that 55% of the Africans live in rural areas. As a result, it is our responsibility to ensure that they are integrated into the Knowledge-based society.
As such we are encouraged and inspired by the example of 28 year old, Saheed Adepoju of Nigeria, who has, despite challenges in funding and entrepreneurial support, designed and manufactured the first African Tablet PC- the Afritab.
Heeding this example, I hope that the deliberations at this conference will conclude with a comprehensive analysis of the lessons learned and will develop these into SMART- Strategic, Measurable, Attainable, Result-orientated and time-bound initiatives and programmes between this and the next ICT Indaba.
Africa carries on its shoulders a historical burden next to none in the use and provision of technology. We therefore have to rise to the occasion and weigh-in our saltís worth by becoming a strong player in the world ICTís market.
It all begins with you; the second African Telecoms Revolution starts today, at this ICT Indaba.
With these few words, I declare the ICT Indaba officially open and wish you fruitful deliberation throughout this conference.
I thank you.