For South Africa to take up its rightful place on the world stage, role-players needed to come together to bridge the digital divide.
Minister of Communications Ayanda Dlodlo made this appeal when she addressed those gathered for the youth engagement programme on Wednesday at the World Economic Forum (WEF) being hosted in Durban this week.
“The ANC-led government formulated the National Development Plan (NDP) which gives effect to our constitutional provisions that seek to create the necessary modern electronic society in order ‘to improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person’.”
The plan, she said, further mandated the government to establish a “seamless information infrastructure by 2030” that would underpin a dynamic and connected vibrant information society and a knowledge economy that is more inclusive, equitable and prosperous.
“In some circles when we speak of inclusive economic growth, we speak about radical economic transformation. Innovation also forms an anchor of the (plan), with specific focus on education, training and skills for innovative and knowledge society.”
She said the government realised the critical need to focus on young people.
“Certainly in the ICT sector we recognise youth as critical stakeholders in the uptake, increase and usage of ICTs. We recognise and hail you as champions and ambassadors of the digital revolution, because under your stewardship there will be a mass appeal and increased usage levels.”
This is same vision, she explained, shared in the AU Agenda 2063 and UN SDGs.
“The African Union has a science, technology and innovation strategy for Africa. This plan recommits countries who have signed the Agreement to invest 1% of Member states funding on Research and Development. The National Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) has a number of programmes that seek to develop and empower our youth from across the continent.”
She said there was a need to improve resource mobilisation for programmes through the pooling together of African resources in the form of the continent’s own institutes, universities, experts, exchanges to share best practices on innovation aimed at strengthening our capabilities as a continent.
“Africans have always been pioneers in innovation, so let no one tell you we don’t know anything about us. We are not an incompetent people. Look at Egyptian pyramids, the old City of Great Zimbabwe, the Old City of Timbuktu (architecture), intricate sculptures of Makhondo of Tanzania and Mozambique, the bronzes of Benin and Nigeria, the beautiful rock paintings of the Drakensberg and Algeria.”