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AdW: The National Development Plan (NDP) 2030 outlines big dreams for South Africa about where it wants to be in 2030 and how technology can make these dreams possible. Is there a single plan on how the country will create an information society and knowledge economy?
WD: No, the reality is that there is not one plan, and this reality prompted the Ministry of Telecommunications and Postal Services to invite members of society to provide written inputs on three strategies that are aimed at leveraging technology to modernise service delivery and radically transform the ICT sector to make it more inclusive.
This follows the cabinet’s approval that the National e-Strategy, the National e-Government Strategy and the ICT SMME Support Strategy be gazetted for public comment. The strategies will contribute to the implementation of the National Development Plan goal of creating an information society and knowledge economy.
AdW: What exactly does the National e-Strategy entail?
WD: The National e-Strategy emanates from Chapter 10 of the National Integrated Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Policy White Paper and is an essential part of the implementation plan for this White Paper.
The purpose of the National e-Strategy is to articulate the vision for the development of an inclusive information society and knowledge economy for the country that is based on the needs of the citizens, business and the public sector. It also articulates the role of the government in the use of ICTs to improve service delivery; and the involvement of all South Africans in growing the economy.
AdW: What about cybersecurity? Do we as a county take this seriously?
WD: I believe we can do better in this regard. The same approach that is applied to national defence should be applied to threats such as WannaCry cyberattacks. Germany has recently established a cyberarmy which is dedicated to cybernational defence.
It is critically important that the country invests seriously in the development of the necessary skills and abilities of world-class technology engineers and knowledge experts to take care of these complex challenges.
AdW: Where are we regarding the digital transformation of our public services?
WD: The National e-Government Strategy and Roadmap also derives from Chapter 10 of the National Integrated ICT Policy White Paper, which emphasises the need to realise the digital transformation of public services.
The purpose of the National e-Government Strategy and Roadmap is to guide the digital transformation of the public service in South Africa into an inclusive digital society, where all citizens can benefit from the opportunities offered by digital technologies to improve their quality of life.
This strategy builds on the various e-government initiatives implemented by a number of departments over the past 14 years. One great example of such service is the e-filing service by the South African Revenue Services (Sars) and the recent Home Affairs technology, which enables online applications for identity documents at the Department of Home Affairs.
AdW: Your passion for the development of entrepreneurs is well known in South Africa. How are we using technology to support entrepreneurs while aiming towards much-needed economic growth?
WD: The ICT SMME support strategy is a direct response to the key objectives of government policy on the need to build inclusive economic growth, create employment and reduce poverty, as outlined in the NDP and the Nine Point Plan. Using technology to provide government services as earlier explained is one area that can truly integrate technology into society. Another area relates to economic development through the support of small, medium and micro-sized enterprises (SMMEs).
The ICT SMME support strategy aims to unlock business opportunities and create an enabling business and administrative environment for SMMEs in the ICT sector to thrive and become successful and sustainable entities. It outlines strategic interventions required to address the current challenges in the ICT sector that constrain the growth and development of SMMEs. It also aims to increase the levels of uptake and usage of ICTs by SMMEs across economic sectors.
AdW: Are these initiatives being communicated properly to the citizens of South Africa, and if so, what platforms were used to get this important message across to especially those previously deprived?
WD: The Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services has been conducting provincial roadshows to explain the policies and solicit inputs from members of society, interest groups, labour and business. Independent Business will utilise our various platforms to engage the public via our national footprint. The outcome of this process will outline how South Africa can use technology to realise its dreams.
Business Report online will share more information about shaping the future of South Africa through technology. Follow the #NationalTechStrategy hashtag on Twitter for more information. Wesley Diphoko is the acting Online Editor for Business Report and head of Independent Media’s Digital Lab.
Follow him on Twitter: @wesleydiphoko