Keynote address by the Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Honourable Mondli Gungubele (Mp) at the official opening of Motheo Innovation Centre, SITA Offices, Centurion, Pretoria, 30 June 2023
Deputy Chairperson of the SITA Board of Directors, Dr Stella Bvuma;
SITA Managing Director, Dr Bongani Mabaso;
Vice President Software AG, Ms Kholiwe Makhohliso;
Acting Director-General, Ms Nonkqubela Jordan-Dyani;
Representatives of GITO Council;
Representatives of ICT Associations;
Ladies and Gentleman;
It is my privilege to join you in celebrating the official opening of this Innovation Centre, Motheo, as we conclude this important month of June for the youth of our country, which we celebrated under the theme, “Accelerating youth economic emancipation for a sustainable future.” We are a department charged with a responsibility to lead in enabling a connected and digitally transformed South Africa and the major beneficiaries of our efforts are the youth, women and SMMEs.
We appreciate the relentless efforts by both SITA and Software AG in making this Innovation Centre a reality. In this era of technological advancements, it is imperative that we embrace innovation and leverage digital solutions to empower the youth, women and SMME’s. One innovation we have as a department is the Digitech platform which serves as an area for digital products developed by SMMEs in our country and stands at the forefront of this transformative wave, presenting tremendous opportunities to promote locally developed digital products. By embracing this digital platform, we can fuel economic growth particularly focusing on localisation, enhance efficiency, and empower the backbone of our economy – which is the SMME sector.
Colleagues SMMEs are the lifeblood of our economy, providing employment opportunities, driving innovation, and contributing to economic growth. However, these businesses often face numerous challenges, such as limited access to resources, market barriers, and bureaucratic hurdles. This platform serves as a catalyst to overcome these obstacles, empowering SMMEs to thrive and contribute even more significantly to our nation’s prosperity.
In order to complement the work of this Innovation Centre, the Department working with SITA established the Digitech SMME platform which provides an inclusive marketplace where SMMEs can showcase their products and services. This digital ecosystem connects these businesses with potential customers, both locally and globally, enabling them to expand their reach and increase their revenue, by facilitating seamless transactions. This platform opens up new opportunities and levels the playing field for SMMEs, regardless of their location or size.
ICTs and Economic Development
Ladies and gentlemen, the former Vice-chancellor of the University of Johannesburg and current United Nations University Rector, Prof Tshilidzi Marwala cautioned us that “We cannot be spectators during this time. Artificial Intelligence is telling us where technology is going and provides opportunities to create alternative ways to reach out to students and how to produce students who will be able to survive in this era.”
Ladies and gentlemen, if we are to give our youth a constructive purpose to live for and thus stay away from all social ills that threaten to wipe away our future leaders, we must embrace technology. ICTs are a tool to fight the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality, increase entrepreneurship – and to change the socio-economic face of nations. Small Medium and Miro- Enterprises (SMMEs) give countries the edge and play a crucial role in job creation, with over 70% of new employment, being expected to be created by this sector.
As a department we are dedicated to ensuring that we create a policy environment in our country where innovation is not stifled but promoted and rewarded. This is the country that produced some of the best entrepreneurs in the world and through centres such as this one, I am certain we will produce many more.
In my recent budget speech, I emphasized the need to bridge the digital divide and ensure increased access to the internet. We are set to reach 80% connectivity by 2024. To this end we will be providing WI-FI access to communities. By December this year, we will have connected 1 000 WI-FI hotspots and thus enabling connectivity to 200 000 households. Furthermore, we will connect 1 858 government offices and 1 200 schools. These are commitments made by the Department and entities in the portfolio in our recent Strategic Planning Session earlier this week. The R1,3 billion to fund this project as announced in the 2023/24 Budget Vote Speech must go towards enabling a more digitally transformed and thus innovative society.
To complement the SA Connect programme, I added that SITA will launch a National Broadband Project to the value of around R6 billion. All these are our efforts to enable a connected and modern society.
SITA Innovation Hub opportunity
Digital transformation and massification of digital skills in all sectors of our economy is a national imperative. Too many South Africans remain digitally unconnected, with unequal access to the internet.
This SITA Software Innovation Centre can ensure that SMME’s get exposed and get comfortable with innovation and the life cycle of products and solutions development. With exposure comes more adoption and more innovation. Technology and innovation adoption – has its own unique complexity – but these ensure evolution in the technology space.
This SITA Innovation Centre, is crucial to rethink, learn, grow and become comfortable with doing things differently and embrace a dynamic culture that spurs on new avenues of progress, development, growth and evolution, in the ICT landscape.
This occasion today acknowledges that the SITA Innovation Centre is a noteworthy beginning. Gratitude goes to SITA and its various collaboration partners including Software AG, who all invested into this incubation centre to help develop SMME’s and speed up entrepreneurs’ access to market.
The SITA vision for the lifecycle of this innovation hub and the impact that it must make within the ICT sector, government and SMME sector, is critical to the development and access to improved opportunities.
The inherent opportunity built into this new programme, the SITA – Software Innovation Centre is that it can turn the tide to move towards creating sustainable and viable SMME’s, who churn out products and solutions that make a difference in the nation and in the lives of communities and individuals.
Three years from today, we hope SITA will publish a glowing update on the successes realized from this investment and the impact it has made in the lives of our people.
Initiatives like these are not only about leveraging innovation and skills, they also contribute to our dream of a better South Africa. It is a dream, that relies on opportunity, access to resources, avenues that promote creativity and experiences that build our resilience and steadfastness to succeed.
We look forward to seeing SMME’s who will be using this innovation centre, being headlined in the future as national and global successes.
I thank you!
Source: Government of South Africa