Information and communication technology has a huge potential to reduce the gaps between the poor and the rich, according to Yunus Carrim, Minister of Communications.
Carrim, launching the Ikamva National e-Skills Institute (iNeSi), was addressing a crowd of more than 200 people at the Durban University of Technology who attended the event recently. Other high profile dignitaries attending the occasion included Minister in the Presidency, Trevor Manuel, Deputy Minister of Communications and Public Service, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams and Ayanda Dlodlo, MEC for Education, Peggy Nkonyeni and eThekwini Mayor, James Khumalo.
Carrim said the launch of the institute significantly advances e-skills (includes using computers and smart-phones to improve the quality of life) teaching and e-literacy in the country. “Information and communication technology (ICT), as most of us know, is crucial to economic growth, development and job creation. We need to become, as the New Growth Path and National Development Plan urge, a far more effective knowledge economy and information society.
“We just can’t afford to be left so behind. ICT has huge potential to reduce the gaps between the poor and the rich. But, if not effectively drawn on, it also has just as much potential to increase the divides between the haves and the have-nots, the connected and the unconnected. “That we certainly, can’t afford! So it’s up to us here and elsewhere. We need to move – and move fast,” said Carrim.
Carrim said the launch of the iNeSi, a merger of three institutions: e-Skills Institute, the National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa and the Institute for Satellite and Software Applications, is a new State Owned Company to effectively harness the range of capacities across government, business, education, civil society and global development partners.
iNeSI is a globally-recognised model that allows stakeholders to sustainably meet South Africa’s e-skilling objectives. These objectives are aligned to the new broadband policy, South Africa Connect, and the National Development Plan, among other national and international goals.
He said the institute gives expression to ‘South Africa Connect,’ the broadband policy and strategy, which the cabinet approved in December.
“There is increasing evidence to support claims that increases in broadband penetration correlate with economic growth and development – that broadband has the potential to create new jobs, broaden educational opportunities, enhanced public service delivery and rural development.
“In response to such evidence and evolving global trends in order to meet the diverse needs of the people of our country, Government has developed SA Connect. It takes an integrated and cross -cutting – but perhaps more importantly – citizen-centric approach,’ said Carrim. He said the UN Human Rights Council had decided access to internet is a basic human right, and the UN Broadband Commission is seeking to include broadband as a basic human need in the Millennium Development Goals to be adopted in 2015.
“For this reason the broadband policy focuses not only on the critical supply side of aspects of provisioning, but more importantly, the demand side. As access to communication comes to mean far more than a voice service on telephone, but rather a full range of ways of communicating, more cheaply, more effectively, of co-ordinating your personal life, finding information and better managing your business, banking, creating knowledge, and innovating, the importance of the country having the individual and collective skills base to realise these possibilities become critical to our success,” said Carrim.
“iNeSI provides us with a basis to a national approach to increase the penetration of ICT in development,” said Prof Ahmed Bawa, vice chancellor of Durban University of Technology and chairman of Higher Education South Africa.
The Portfolio Committee on Communications also endorsed iNeSI. The importance of e-skills was emphasised, that e-skills should become mandatory in schools, and that there is now an opportunity to capacitate e-skills as a matter of urgency. The establishment of an e-skills readiness programme and fund is critical to the success of iNeSI.