This is the full and unedited transcript of the speech given by newly appointed communications minister Roy Padayachie at his first media briefing as minister in which he set out his priorities for the department and the ministry.
Members of the Media present and Executives from State owned enterprises, friends and colleagues, let me first express a warm welcome to all for having accepted to be present for this Media Conference.
The Minister, Radhakrishna Padayachie (Roy) and Deputy Minister, Obed Bapela have been in office for approximately 11 days. In the course of this period, we have been approached by many journalists who have requested interviews and who have many questions and concerns that they wish to have engaged us on. We must apologise for having turned down these requests in favour of us convening this media briefing which affords us the opportunity face to face to share with you our thoughts on how we wish to implement our work in the DoC. In the first few days we have had to first discuss and receive a handover report from Minister Nyanda and Deputy Minister Pule, the Acting DG, Dr Wesso and the senior leadership of the DoC before we could engage with the media.
Our only regret is that we have not as yet organized an opportunity to meet with the Top Management and the general staff of the DoC, we apologise to the staff and must assure team Doc that this will be done in the coming week.
To the colleagues in the media, I assure you that the Minister and Deputy Minister believe in the principles of freedom of the media. We assure the media that we will always respect the right of the media to engage openly and transparently. It is our view that the media is a critical force in the development of society and has a positive and leading role to play in educating the general public about the importance of ICTs in the advancement of society’s goals and the creation of a better life for our people.
We believe the Ministry / Department of Communications cannot function as an entity in isolation from the people it is there to serve. It is for that reason that we have sought to host this media conference on site here at the DoC. We have invited you here at the DoC to demonstrate to you that the DoC is open for business. We want to do things differently- working faster, harder and smarter. It is our desire that the DoC will understand and implement a culture of public service that is selfless and capable of sacrifice, knowing where people live, what they want and be ever ready to commit to delivery of the best service our people want.
Public servants, in the public service are absolutely important in our plans to deliver a more efficient DoC. Without caring and committed public servants the DoC will not be able to fulfill this mission.
In the past week, I have been enormously encouraged by the overwhelming response we have had by the staff of the DoC to our appointment. There is both a sense of joy and the emergence of a great spirit of unity amongst the staff, from the general staff to the specialist technology experts in the department. We appreciate this and both Minister and Deputy Minister wish to acknowledge the warmth that team DoC have demonstrated and have responded to the call to bring a wave of positive change. The spirit demonstrated by this conduct reminds us how true the slogan is when we say “working together we can do more”.
We are equally encouraged by the enormously positive response that we have received from the general community, the leadership and companies in the ICT sector. Likewise, the colleagues in Parliament, both from the ruling party and members from the opposition have also been very supportive and encouraging.
We take this opportunity to express our appreciation for the contributions made both by General (Ret) Siphiwe Nyanda and Deputy Minister Dina Pule.
Having consulted with the senior leadership in the DoC, under the leadership of the Acting DG, Dr Wesso, we have now consolidated our approach to the kind of interventions that we would like to make in the work of the Ministry in our programme going forward.
The perspective by which we are guided is determined by implementing activities that we will be initiating within 30 days, 3 months and 12 months period. We have identified six critical pillars to our program that will establish a new platform, creating the necessary wave of change that will lead us to actualizing the vision that the DoC has set for itself, that is to be a Global Leader in the Development and use of ICTs for socio economic development and the betterment of People’s lives, the foundations of which can only be achieved through building a people-centered inclusive information society in a sustainable world class ICT environment.
In this context, Cabinet has called upon us to initiate programmes and activities that support the building of a new economic growth path for the country. We seek to guarantee that ICTs will make its substantive contribution as an enabler for economic growth and the creation of new jobs and skills amongst our people as we strengthen the foundation for a knowledge based economy.
1. The first thrust of our intervention is the reconstruction and development of the Department of Communications (DoC)
- Improve our performance through more efficient and effective leadership, internal communication, planning and budgeting, risk management, staff performance management, information management and process redesign.
- Appoint the Director-General and senior management in the next three months so as to stabilize the leadership of the Department.
- Initiate a change management programme, which also deals with transformation matters. A Transformation Committee has already been established.
- Finalise the institutional review process and fill all vacancies within six months.
- Align departmental programmes to MTSF goals and the twelve Cabinet Outcomes
2. The second thrust of our intervention would be to stabilize the public entities within the Portfolio
- Our first priority would be to stabilize the leadership within the South African Broadcasting Corporation and to address its programme of work that will resolve its financial liquidity problems and guarantee that the Corporation will deliver programme content in tune with the needs of the people. What we need is a public broadcaster that functions competently. We will therefore work closely with Parliament, the Chairperson of the Board, the Board Members, its Executive Leadership, the Executive Management and general staff of the Corporation with a view to finding solutions to the problems besieging the Corporation. This would include, amongst others, the finalization of the turnaround strategy and the creation of stability within the Board and the Corporation.
- Furthermore, we will, in dealing with the challenges facing the Public Broadcaster, accelerate the finalization of the Public Service Broadcasting Bill. The main purpose of this Bill is to repeal the Broadcasting Act of 1999, so as to align the broadcasting system to the developmental goals of the Republic. This Bill will also deal with corporate governance matters in general. We envisage that this Bill will be submitted to Cabinet during the first quarter of 2011. Due to huge public interests in the contents of the Bill, the Department will, from the 15-17 November 2010, conduct other public hearings to solicit further input on this critical issue.
With regard to Sentech, the Chairperson of the Board resigned at the end of October. I have accepted this resignation with immediate effect. I have therefore appointed an Acting Chairperson of the Board in the person of Ms Leah Khumalo who is a practicing attorney and member of the current Board. We will be working closely with the Board of Sentech to ensure that senior management positions are filled within the next three months. I take this opportunity to express my appreciation to Mr Quraysh Patel, the outgoing Chairperson, for the service that he has provided to the organization. He has assured me that he will continue to avail himself and give support to the work of Sentech. I also take the opportunity to welcome the new CEO of SENTECH, Dr Setumo Mohapi who joined the organization as of 1 November 2010.
For the effective functioning of the ICT sector, the Regulator, ICASA, must be strengthened and, at all times, function with confidence and independence. Efforts to strengthen its capacity will include measures to enhance its technical and financial competency. In this regard, we will actively support and promote its collaboration with the international institutions, such as the International Telecommunications Union During the first half of 2011, an ICASA Amendment Bill will be finalized and submitted to Cabinet for approval for introduction to Parliament.
In addition, the Department has begun with the process of developing a performance management system for ICASA as required by the law. We will therefore, during this month finalize our engagements with ICASA on this matter. We hope that the system will be implemented from the 1st April 2011.
Universal service and access to ICTs remains our priority. In this regard, the role and capacity of the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA) will be strengthened to ensure that it deals with the universal service and access issues for the entire ICT sector including postal matters. We are, as part of amending the Electronic Communication Act, strengthening the role, powers and functions of USAASA.
We will accelerate efforts to align the programmes of our state-owned entities with that of government, so as to ensure that SOEs remain the strategic implementing agencies of government.
a. The third thrust will involve forging partnerships with the private sector, academia, civil society organizations and labour
These sectors provide enormous potential for the mobilization of intellectual capital and investment partnerships. We will extend an open invitation to enter into a development partnership with the different sectors to reconstruct and develop the ICT sector.
In the coming weeks we will initiate a series of round table discussions with the different sectors. The first of these initiatives have already been done with the broadcasting industry. The next would involve a round table with the CEOs and Chairpersons of the top 30 ICT companies in the country. Our focus is to ascertain the receptivity to the invitation, to discuss an agenda for such an engagement and to construct an appropriate platform for continuous dialogue.
4. Within the next 12 months, the Department will focus on the following strategic priorities
4.1 Building an integrated National Broadband Plan
- Building an efficient, competitive and responsive ICT infrastructure network is critical to propel South Africa into a knowledge-based economy. This would require that government continue to implement a programme to ensure the liberalization of the ICT sector in order to promote competition, In this regard, we continue to implement interventions aimed at promoting appropriate cost structures in the ICT sector. We also note the significant progress made in addressing the mobile termination rates. The Unbundling of the local loop remains a critical and important intervention. In this regard we will work closely with ICASA to ensure that the local loop is unbundled by November 2011.
- The digital technologies such as broadband are increasingly becoming an instrument to achieve the national development goals. They offer opportunities to create a variety of new applications. Broadband, and its faster “always-on” connections, is serving to accelerate the process of integration of Internet technologies into everyday life.
- The creation of new applications not only needs large pipes and suitable technological infrastructure, but also an appropriate strategy for service evolution, and an adequate environment for the creation of new content. With digital technologies, the variety and quality of specialized applications — for instance online entertainment or educational material — are set to increase dramatically. The future should be about innovation with a view to take advantage of the new technologies.
- The creation of new applications defines and challenges how content should be regulated. Hence the policy gears itself to ensure that there is an appropriate regulatory environment to regulate digital content. The development of new applications should be promoted. Such efforts will ensure that the development of a competitive ICT industry in general is not compromised.
- Improving and increasing access to government services offered online remains a strategic objective of Government. To realize this objective, there is a need to develop and promote open, simple and secure online e-applications and content bringing new experiences to the citizenry in general.
4.2 Building a people-centered inclusive Information Society and Knowledge Based Economy
- Develop South Africa’s ICT infrastructure, skills and regulatory regime so that all South Africans are able to take full advantage of economic, educational and social opportunities offered by the emerging Information Society and Knowled Based Economy.
- Develop programmes and projects to promote the uptake and usage of ICTs on a national scale and contribute to bridging the digital divide.
- Operationalise the e-Skills Institute to lead and be the catalyst to e-skilling the nation for equitable prosperity and global competitiveness that is so vital to our future growth.
- The Information Society and Development Multi-stakeholder Forum which was established this year as a platform of engagement for reviewing the implementation of the WSIS Outcomes as well as the ISAD Plan implementation by government, business and the civil society. The Forum is a Partnership for Development Initiative which discusses key developmental initiatives and programmes for building a people-centred, inclusive information society and knowledge based economy. Several partnerships with the private sector, academia, and civil society have been initiated.
- Establish an internationally appointed Advisory Panel for ICT development in South Africa. This could be a conduit to receive best global experience in our policy practice and implementation for the ICT Sector. Our focus will be on identifying the niche areas in the ICT value chain for South African companies and to facilitate the emergence of global brands for the South African ICT Sector.
4.3 Regulation and convergence
- Ensure that regulations in the telecommunications sector are in the interests of South African consumers, businesses and more broadly in the economy
- We therefore recognize the need to develop an appropriate policy and regulatory environment in order to enhance the role of ICTs in advancing the achievement of the national developmental goals. In this regard, a national colloquium on the development of the National ICT Policy Framework will be convened during the first quarter of 2011. The Policy Framework will chart a long-term vision for the ICT sector and its contribution to the economy. The colloquium will be a high level dialogue initiative for key stakeholders to identify and harmonize the institutional and sectoral issues with respect to the development and application of ICTs in South Africa, as well as the key policy issues that need to be addressed.
- We will also continue with efforts to clean the Electronic Communications Act so as to clarify and strengthen the role, powers and functions of the Minister and of ICASA. In this regard, we will, in the next few days, publish the Electronic Communications Amendment Bill for public comments.
4.4 Spectrum management
- Work with ICASA and industry to maximize the efficient management and utilization of national radio frequency spectrum assets to maximize the benefits to South African consumers and industry.
- The deployment of ICT infrastructure is dependent on how effective and efficient the country is in regard to the management of the radio frequency spectrum – a natural scarce resource. As technology evolves, the country should adopt technologies that are efficient in the usage of the spectrum. In this connection, measures to ensure efficient use of radio-frequency spectrum to meet the developmental objectives shall be accelerated.
- Publication of draft policy directions for public comment on spectrum for broadband applications, radio spectrum usage and spectrum pricing are being considered.
4.5 Cyber Security
- Create awareness and provide education about cyber-safety and e-security issues in the community.
- Undertake research and consultation to inform policy and deliver programs that better protect South African internet users.
- In an increasingly knowledge-driven and networked world we are prone to external interceptions that are in breach of lawful online conduct, all of which could lead to an erosion of trust and confidence, it is important that measures are undertaken towards creating an awareness of what is desirable and building capacities for the same and by the establishment of an enforcement and compliance regime. An environment of trust and confidence in ICT, particularly the Internet, is an essential pre-requisite for ICT uptake levels to rise.
- A National Cybersecurity Policy has been formulated which is a synthesis of reactive and proactive measures towards building information secure society.
- Whist this policy acknowledges the initiatives taken to develop and implement e-commerce, in going forward, such a policy must be strengthened with a well-established information security system so as to create confidence in the use of the system.
4.6 Broadcasting Digital Migration
- Digital migration remains a key project of the Department. With regard to the implementation of the digital migration policy in South Africa, our programme will focus on finalizing the set-top box manufacturing strategy, the scheme for ownership support for poor TV owning households and the local and digital content development strategy. We envisage that this will be submitted to Cabinet for approval during the first quarter of 2011.
- Within a month from now we will also pronounce on the country’s position in relation to the digital terrestrial television standard. The finalization of this matter will assist in accelerating the implementation of broadcasting digital migration in South Africa.
4.7 ICTs and Climate Change
- Take the necessary measures to reduce the effects of climate change by developing and using more energy-efficient ICT devices, applications and networks and through the application of ICTs in other fields
- Promote recycling and the re-use of ICT equipment.
5. Major projects
5.1 e-Skills Institute
- Technology aware human capital is regarded as the driving force behind technology innovations anywhere in the world. The ICT industry is knowledge intensive and driven essentially by the need for low and high-end skills.
- Therefore the development of an ICT skilled labour force in terms of quantity and quality is crucial. If the country is to increase both the quantity and quality of an ICT skilled labour force, we need to initiate, review and strengthen the current interventions for immediate results through making available outputs that are compatible with industry requirements.
- A process is under way to have the e-SI established as a legal entity and as an accredited educational institution of higher learning.
- High Profile National Seminar/Lecture Series at Regional Knowledge Production Hubs and the e-SI nationally will commence during the 2011 academic year.
- The following three to five months will see the implementation of three e-SI Regional Knowledge Production Hubs; the ICT knowledge and infrastructure design to support virtual offerings; Curriculum development; ie. e-skills for digital inclusion; e-skills for rural development; e-skills for e-democracy; e-skills for business; e-skills for teaching and learning.
5.2 ICTs and Rural Development
- The deployment of ICT infrastructure should bring with it significant benefits to the consumers in terms of enabling the provision of services by multiple operators possible. Less duplication of ICT infrastructure will ensure increased competition in the provision of affordable services to the majority of the population, thus encouraging competition in the sector.
- Due to the fact that ICT infrastructure is biased towards urban and affluent areas in South Africa, there is a need to continue with universal access and service programme. Currently more electronic communications network service licensees have been licensed. It is for this reason that the approach to universal access and service should be reviewed to reflect the current realities.
- The Department of Communications recognizes that the big challenges facing Government, particularly as it relates to the ICT sector’s role in rural areas, are the accessibility of appropriate ICT infrastructure to the majority of people as well as the affordability of ICT services including broadband and internet connection.
- The Department will finalize the ICT Rural Development Strategy by March next year. The implementation of the strategies will see the further roll-out of an additional 90 Digital Hubs throughout the country in under-served areas, support the establishment of 23 new e-Cooperatives with a focus on unemployed youth graduates recruited from rural areas and the finalisation of an e-Commerce portal for Small scale farmers to ensure online trading of agricultural products during the financial year 2011/2012. In addition, 19 low power transmitters will be built to afford about 5 million inhabitants access to television services. Rural technologies such as wireless technology infrastructure is considered as a means of bridging the rural-urban divide in South Africa.
5.3 Corporatization of the Postbank
- The Department will continue with the programme to corporatise the Postbank. In this regard, we will, within a month, develop a road map towards the implementation of the Postbank Bill. We envisage that the Bill will be signed into law. We will fulfill the mandate of Government in bringing services to the people.
5.4 E-Connectivity and 2010 Legacy
- The e-Health Connectivity Plan supports the establishment of national health network infrastructure (VPN) in order for the improvement of health care services as well as to improve the health status of South Africans. The Plan is currently being discussed with stakeholders in the health sector and human development cluster of government. In support of the integrated infrastructure planning, this initiative is aligned with other connectivity initiatives especially in relation to education. The Plan will be finalized for submission to Cabinet by March 2011.
5.5 Local and Digital Content Development Strategy
- The development of local content has the potential to contribute to a new industry focus. In this regard we will accelerate the finalization of the Local and Digital Content Strategy for South Africa.
5.6 International Relations
- South Africa has been blessed to be awarded a seat on the ITU Council. We look forward to ensuring that South Africa remains committed to the world and will build a strong partnerships for policy development with UNDP, UPU, UNESCO, WHO and OECD.
We have an amazing opportunity before us. Working together and by joining hands we could become the change we want to see.