Siyabonga Cwele, the Minister of telecommunications and postal services
Siyabonga Cwele, the Minister of telecommunications and postal services (Photo Credit: department of telecommunications)

The South African Government is planning to create a National Fourth Industrial Commission.

“We have decided to form a National Fourth Industrial Commission to help us embrace and cope with the Digital Revolution,” Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Siyabonga Cwele, said on Monday.

The minister made the remarks during Telkom’s annual South African Telecommunication Networks and Applications Conference (SATNAC), this year held on a ship, cruising through some of the most historic locations such as Province, Nice, Florence, Naples, and Rome.

Cwele told delegates that government will continue using its policies and regulatory framework to hasten the creation of a “New Digital Economy”.

The commission was first mooted by the ruling party, the African National Congress in its Discussion Documents launched ahead of its 2017 National Policy Conference held from 30 June to 5 July 2017.

The ANC Communications Discussion Document proposed the establishment of an ANC 4th Industrial Commission as a first step to create the enabling environment and capacity within the ANC.

The paper further acknowledges that the ANC must lead society in preparation for the impact of 4th Industrial Revolution –characterized and driven by increased use of ICT in all human activities – and help different segments of society and the economy to adapt to the disruptive epoch.

For this to happen the ANC must be prepared and organized to lead, according to the discussion document.

The discussion document also emphasised that effective participation in the 4th Industrial Revolution means that technological advances must be utilized to address poverty, inequality, and unemployment.

It also proposed, amongst others, that this area be utilised to build and support ICT SMMEs and innovative start-ups. There is a lot of potential to train and employ young people in the sector.

Cwele in his SATNAC speech said that as we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we should prioritise the elimination of the digital divide.

“This is critical in a country such as South Africa that comes from deep seated structural divides as a result of apartheid economy. High in our efforts will be to skill and reskill our workforce and ensure that we are globally competitive.”

Telkom recognised that there is a desperate shortage of highly skilled engineers, computer scientists and related professionals in South Africa and as a result embarked on establishing a postgraduate research program which focused on developing high-level skills for the ICT sector.

“The Telkom Centre for Excellence plays a critical role in enhancing the much-needed intellectual capacity to usher us to the fourth industrial revolution,” said Cwele.

He added that the ICT industry is the backbone and the enabler of the digital economy and new technologies such as e-commerce, mobile payments, data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT).

“We provide the fastest medium through which our continent connects to the rest of the world. That is why it is so vitally important for us to come together at event like this to discuss how we can innovate, disrupt, and transform our industry to better serve the needs of an increasingly digital African population while still protecting our most vulnerable,” he said.

“As the industry, we should be planning and building the future networks and applications that will facilitate the IoT.”

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