The South African government was working to position state entities and small businesses as global players in the field of information and communication technology (ICT), according to telecommunications minister Siyabonga Cwele.
“Our priority focus is to demonopolise the electronic and manufacturing sectors [to] help us to create platforms for our State-owned companies (SOCs) and Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMES) to emerge as global ICT players and to achieve equitable distribution of ICT networks, products and services,” Cwele said on Friday.
He was speaking at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban on the first day of the BRICS Communications and ICT ministerial meeting.
Cwele was joined by ministers from BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) who were meeting under the theme of “Advancing inclusive growth through industry and SMME participation”.
The minister said it was decided to hold the meeting just a day after the ITU Telecom World 2018 conference ended to “leverage on the participation of the big and small industry players as well as the participation of policy and regulatory leaders”.
BRICS offered a platform for new thinking on how best to create a communications’ environment that responded to the needs of all people and countries, he said.
South Africa had a vibrant ICT sector of big industry players, tech entrepreneurs and small enterprises that were developing infrastructure, equipment and applications to meet the demands of the digital economy.
“Digital development is an important input in the drive towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Earlier this year, we announced that government will establish a Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution to advise and help us to develop a comprehensive strategy and plan on this important issue of our times.
“This Commission will be inclusive to ensure that all stakeholders such as labour, other civil society formations, business and academia are part of the evolution of our policies and strategies which will ensure their buy-in. The process to do this is at an advanced stage and will be concluded soon,” said Cwele.
“Currently in South Africa we have prioritised the roll-out of infrastructure, in particular through our SA Connect Broadband Plan, and through the development of a Wireless Open Access Network.
“Our intention is to ensure that everyone has access to Broadband at affordable prices. To do this, we intend to produce aspects of the broadband infrastructure network from cabling to end-devices locally.
“We are also looking to license high demand spectrum to enhance new services. This includes rolling-out 5G networks in our country. This network infrastructure will be critical to our development and I believe will help us in our national investment drive which is being led by president Cyril Ramaphosa,” he said.
Cwele also encouraged “our BRICS friends” to partner with the country to expand infrastructure roll-out in Africa. “As a continent, we are still faced with gaps in cross-border connectivity as well as intra-country broadband rollout.”