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WEF Africa 2017: WEF and SA in push to bridge digital divide

World Economic Forum
Durban – Millions of South Africans will soon have access to the internet thanks to a new platform project called South Africa Internet for All.

The World Economic Forum, in partnership with the Government of South Africa, will this week announce the launch of the project, which aims to bring millions of South Africans, including those in rural areas, onto the internet for the first time through new models of public-private collaboration. Currently, according to the International Telecommunications Union, 52 percent of South Africans use the internet.

The project, which is aligned to the Government's National Development and South Africa Connect plans, will address the barriers that prevent universal internet access – infrastructure connectivity, affordability, skills and awareness, and relevant content, and also explore how Internet for All can better support the development of e-government services and SMEs.

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Minister Siyabonga Cwele

Siyabonga Cwele, Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services of South Africa, said: "The partnership with the World Economic Forum and local partners will help us accelerate our efforts to connect South Africans to the benefits of the internet.

"We are very pleased to welcome the World Economic Forum to South Africa to partner with the government on Internet for All. We value inclusive, multi-stakeholder efforts that will help bring many more South Africans onto the internet."

Internet for All is a global project of the World Economic Forum that accelerates internet access and adoption through a multi-stakeholder platform. Partner organisations such as Cisco, Digital Opportunity Trust, Ericsson, Huawei, Microsoft, MTN and Telkom work on this platform together with government, civil society, academia and international organisations to develop and scale new internet access models, attract and coordinate investments, and align programming.

Jabu Mabuza, Chairman of the Telkom Group, said that the project "creates fertile ground for sustainable, accelerated, inclusive economic growth in Africa. We are pleased to partner with the World Economic Forum on the Internet for All initiative, where we can demonstrate our commitment to the promotion of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Africa as a catalyst for inclusive growth".

Country-level Internet for All platforms are already operating in Argentina, Rwanda and Uganda, where they have so far succeeded in developing major projects such as Rwanda's Digital Ambassadors Program, a skills development activity that will train 5,000 trainers who will work in rural Rwanda to teach digital skills to five million people.

Janet Longmore, founder and CEO of the Digital Opportunity Trust, an organisation involved in the programme, said that "the Digital Ambassadors Program brings together government, the private sector and civil society to help citizens access a growing number of e-services in Rwanda, and to develop and support young women and men as digital champions and job creators.

"The programme is a collaborative response to community need, and offers a potential model for adoption by South Africa to close the digital divide."

Alex Wong, Head of Global Challenge Partnership and Member of the Executive Committee at the World Economic Forum, said: "We congratulate the Government of South Africa and our Internet for All partner organisations for their leadership in launching the South Africa Internet for All project, as well as the progress in our other Internet for All country programmes.

"The new report, An Investment Framework for Digital Adoption, provides additional tools and examples of how internet for all can be achieved through public-private collaboration."

AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY

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