Telecommunications Minister Siyabonga Cwele says Collaboration will also help us to define Africa’s strategy in relation to data. Photo: Chantall Presence/African News Agency (ANA)
JOHANNESBURG – This week South Africa and Africa are hosting world leaders in the information and communication technologies sector in partnership with the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the private sector at the 2018 ITU Telecoms World in Durban.

We have embraced this opportunity because it ensures that Africa’s voice is heard in the important technology discussions, which include preparations for 5G networks, impact and ownership of artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and the risks and opportunities of a smarter world.

These are important discussions because Africa cannot afford to be left behind in the global economy. We also need to ensure that small businesses can give the continent a great lever in the development of local solutions to our challenges, thereby localising the digital economy.

ITU Telecoms World was addressed by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday, bringing hope of a new digital dawn for the country, Africa and the world. He emphasised once more that we should take advantage of the rapid technological developments to help our countries achieve the UN sustainable development goals to improve the quality of life of all humanity.

ITU Telecoms World has invited about 50 African and South African small businesses to partner with other entrepreneurs and seek potential investment. They are showcasing their ICT capabilities this week while forging deeper partnerships and staying abreast with global ICT best practices. It is clear we need collaboration to achieve our goals much faster. This collaboration in the digital sphere has to be with governments, regulators, private sector, labour and academia. As South Africa, we are hosting this conference with the sponsorship of the private sector.

Collaboration will also help us to define Africa’s strategy in relation to data, which is evidently the fuel that propels the digital economy. Our collective decisions and actions will determine if we are to become slaves or masters of our own destiny in the digital economy. Decisions we make about data should support localisation of the digital economy.

In South Africa, we have the e-government strategy, which is our guide for digital transformation and modernising our public service departments to improve service delivery to our citizens. This will enable the government to offer more online services.

Another area of focus should be collaboration in connecting the people who remain off-line. The Smart Africa Initiative has resolved to launch the One Africa Network, which is aligned to modern thinking in the rollout of infrastructure as the continent strives to connect her unconnected citizens.

Training people in digital skills is as important as rolling out infrastructure to cover everyone. In this regard, African countries are rolling out the Internet-for-All programme which focuses on the provision of digital skills, localisation of the internet content and manufacturing and the rollout of infrastructure. Some private sector companies are partnering with African countries to scale-up digital skills training.

The ITU conference is coming to South Africa as we are preparing to host the Investment Summit in October. It therefore offers an excellent opportunity to attract investment from ICT investors. South Africa is indeed open for business.

Dr Siyabonga Cwele is Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services.

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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– BUSINESS REPORT