Durban - The government has launched a national institute aimed at producing significantly more information and communication technology (ICT) savvy South Africans.

The Ikamva National e-Skills Institute was launched at the Durban University of Technology by Communications Minister Yunus Carrim and Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel on Friday.

At community level, the institute will operate centres where people can access ICT, and where the impact of e-skills in communities and skills shortages will be tracked. People will be able to download lectures and interact with other users. As one of five universities involved with the institute, DUT has designed ICT skills training programmes.

The institute’s provincial centres will co-ordinate the input of the government, business and civil society, develop curricula, and serve as a monitoring and evaluation hub.

Carrim said attending the World Economic Forum in Davos in Switzerland last month was a reminder that South Africa could not afford to be left behind in ICT.

“ICT has huge, huge potential to reduce the gap between the poor and the rich.

“But, if not effectively drawn on, it also has just as much potential to increase the divides between the haves and the have-nots, the connected and the unconnected,” Carrim said.

He said the UN’s broadband commission was trying to have broadband included as a basic human need in the millennium development goals which would be adopted next year.

Manuel said:

“The truth of the matter is that inequality will grow because ICT does not wait until the laggards are ready.”

He emphasised that it was the responsibility of policy-makers to ensure no one was left behind.

“Part of the establishment and expansion of the Ikamva Institute is about ensuring that we make an appropriate and necessary investment in the next generation.” - The Mercury