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Address by Deputy President Paulus Mashatile, at the launch of the SA Connect Phase 2 Project, Modimolle, Waterberg District, Limpopo Province

Programme Director; 
Minister of Digital Communications and Digital Technologies, Mondli Gungubele;
Limpopo Province MEC for Economic Development, Environment and Tourism, Rodgers Monama;
Executive Mayor of the Waterberg District Municipality, Morris Mataboge;
Mayor of Modimolle-Mookgopong Local Municipality, Aaron Sebolai;
Speaker of the Waterberg District Municipality, Reginah Molokomme,
Ladies and Gentlemen;

Good Day! 

Let me begin by commending the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies for the work that they have done to increase connectivity and narrow the digital divide in the country. In the world that we live in today, internet connectivity is an integral part of how we do life. Our children rely on the internet for learning, it supports us in improving our health and well-being, keeps us connected to loved ones and plays a role in strengthening our local economies by making it easy for local entrepreneurs to do business.

This launch comes at a time when as a nation we are preparing for the seventh National General Election. Thirty years ago, South Africa looked completely different to what it looks like today. I am proud that this launch takes place in the month of the commemoration of South Africa’s freedom. Indeed the world has since 1994 evolved in leaps and bounds, and global development has reached levels that have enabled us to transform our societies for the betterment of the present and future generations. 

The work that the Department has been doing to connect our communities, is nothing else but a manifestation of the Freedom Charter which has always, and will always serve as a premise for what we as the ANC government implement to improve the lives of the poor and marginalised of our society. 

The South Africa Connect programme is the government’s effort to bridge the digital divide by among other things: 
a) Extending connectivity to all schools, health facilities, and government facilities; 
b) Increasing the connection speed to facilitate effective teaching and learning, e-health and access to government services to fast-track service delivery by government; 
c) Meeting the country’s vision of a seamless network of networks that will make broadband universally accessible at a cost and quality that meets the needs of citizens, formal and informal businesses, and the public sector in 36 months. 

In implementing the country’s broadband policy, the government commenced with the SA Connect project which involves public entities and private entities deploying the infrastructure across the country. 
The project is split into three components, which are - Household Connectivity, Government Facility Connectivity and Social Obligations Connectivity.

I would like to focus on the real game changers of this project we are launching, the SA Connect programme which is estimated to provide direct employment opportunities of about 4 505, made out of skilled professionals and semi-skilled labour force as well as further opportunities downstream. As the government, we are determined to see the participation and employment of people in the communities where we are deploying the Wi-Fi to households and communities. 

This project will see opportunities created for 75 SMME companies. Thus far, 16 SMME companies that are Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have already been appointed. Amongst the 16 companies: 3 are youth-owned companies, 2 are women-owned and 1 is owned by a person living with disability. The 16 companies have created 200 direct jobs, of which, 158 are youth employees, 87 are women and 1 person living with a disability. 

As government we want these ISPs and many others to participate in the mainstream economy, we want them to flourish in this business and the digital technology sector in general. Considering that the global expansion of the digital economy is inevitable, I strongly encourage the youth to consider amongst others, careers in ICT and engineering, so they too can participate in this economy. 

I am informed that NEMISA, which is one of the entities under the Department of Communications and Digital Communications is also here today. Please do approach their exhibition to find more information on their training programmes on digital literacy, SMME development and other online digital connectivity programmes.  


The two entities under the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT), the Broadband Infraco (BBI) and SENTECH in conjunction with the ICT industry are on course to provide broadband services to South Africans, targeting 32 055 community Wi-Fi hotspots, enabling connectivity of about 5,6 million households over a period of 3 years. We have observed that the deployment of broadband to households thus far has only been in urban and affluent areas- which has exacerbated the digital divide in the country. As the government, we have put this intervention to ensure that no one is left behind in the digital economy. 

Meaningful Universal Connectivity means that anyone, anywhere, regardless of geographic location, socio-economic status, race, gender, or any other differentiating demographic, must have access to affordable services and devices to connect to reliable and safe internet. Through the SA Connect programme in Modimolle, the community is now part of the digital world. 

Through the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) we are providing and maintaining connectivity to government sites through the current allocation of individual Departments at a minimum of 10 megabits per second (Mbps), targeting a total of 14 742 government sites over 36 months. This involves upgrading current connectivity as well as deploying new connections to unconnected government facilities so that all three spheres of government are easily accessible. 

The power of this digital connectivity also means that SMMEs are able to trade online. You now stand a better chance of marketing your product beyond the word of mouth and your own movement. But the internet empowers you to reach customers beyond your community, municipality, province and even the country, and connects you to the digital world. 

This the message we are spreading today: that through partnership with the Licensed Telco Operators, who are locally based SMMEs, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), and Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs), who are leasing capacity from BBI and SENTECH, we are providing connectivity to households. 

A black child in South Africa today now owns an ISP business that is deploying community Wi-Fi hotspots, with the applicable mentoring and support from government. This programme is producing a cost-effective way of ensuring communities are connected to the internet.

Regarding the accessibility of data, the data packages offered to the community of Modimolle are exceptionally affordable. There are two data packages: the day package of 1GIG costs only R5, and the monthly package costs R245 unlimited- that means you connect day and night, week in and week out, all month for R245. With that power of digital connectivity, you can connect to your loved ones, and your old friends, make new friends and even have time to chat with us in government online. Modimolle has gone digital! 

As part of the SA Connect programme, SENTECH intends to roll out an estimated 20 fixed wireless access base stations in the Waterberg District. Therefore, when you see cars and people who are unfamiliar, those are SENTECH technicians coming to install 214 hotspots and about 11 base stations in the Modimolle-Mookgophong areas. So please welcome and protect them, because their visit is to connect your communities. 

As government, we are responding to mitigate the devastating aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of connecting government and society, SITA has launched smart schools (Cyberlabs) across the country. The Cyber Labs are cutting-edge computer laboratories equipped with state-of-the-art technology and digital tools including laptops, digital screens, servers and internet connectivity. This initiative seeks to empower schools to improve their computing skills, ensuring inclusivity of the fourth Industrial Revolution and preparing for the digital economy of tomorrow.

The Cyberlab packages comprise 40 configured Laptops for the school, connectivity to the benefiting school, basic programming training to the learners as well as support from SITA to the school beyond the Cyberlab handover.

Provinces such as Limpopo, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and North West are beneficiaries of these Cyberlabs and all other remaining provinces will benefit too as more of these Cyberlabs are rolled out through this initiative driven by the Department and SITA. This is part of the digital revolution, and we are intentionally turning our schools into digital research centres of excellence.

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

The Communications Department has been in this area, migrating household from analogue to digital broadcasting. Over 1 986 households benefited from a subsidized decoder from government because of their socio-economic status. I want to encourage those who retired, over 65 year olds, or those who live in household where income is R3 500 or less, to go to their nearest Post Office in either Modimolle or Mookgophong to register to get your free set-top-box decoder. 

We are going digital as a country and we will switch off all analogue signals by 31 December this year. If you do not qualify for a government-subsidised decoder, please go to your nearest retail shop and buy one. We do not want anyone to be left behind! 

SENTECH has undertaken a transformative initiative to introduce freevisionplay. This platform promises to redefine content distribution in South Africa and bridge the current gaps in broadcasting by accommodating a diverse array of broadcasters, including SABC and e-TV, premium FAST (Free Ad Supported Television) channels, community TV and radio stations, and private commercial radio stations. It offers an interconnected network, enabling wider content access and collaboration among stakeholders. 

The Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) platform comes with all 19 SABC Radio stations, and all SABC TV stations including the 24-hour news channel, SABC Education, and SABC Sports.

With your R5 per day or R245 per month, you now have access to content for your education and entertainment needs. The power of digital connectivity is here!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Connectivity in underserved communities has created virtual job participation in global markets, with local businesses that can thrive as entrepreneurs in online sales and students can participate in online schooling due to stable broadband infrastructure. This underscores our government’s commitment to ensuring that no one is left behind as we seek to venture into new frontiers and reap the benefits of the digital economy.

I must say that I am deeply humbled to, together with the Minister deliver to the people of Modimolle, the opening of the cultural treasures of mankind for all. The South Africa Connect programme is in essence, a platform for the free exchange of books, ideas and contact with other lands as espoused in the Freedom Charter. Minister and your entire team, this is a historic moment, and to you, I say aluta continua!

As I close, allow me to use this opportunity to go back to where we started. On the 29 May, we will as a nation be going for our national elections. As we do so, I urge you all, especially the youth, to not take this opportunity to exercise your democratic right to vote for granted. We have come a long way as a nation, and it is because of the commitment that we shared to a better and more prosperous future. We are still building the South Africa of our dreams and I invite you to journey with us to this future. Together, we can certainly do more.

Baheso boModimolle – you have gone Digital! Wi-Fi is now within reach and in your hands!

Thank You.

 Union Building