The rapid expansion of broadband reach and accessibility is a priority in South Africa because it is a key determinant of economic inclusion‚ President Cyril Ramaphosa told the International Telecommunication Union Telecom Conference in Durban on Monday.
Addressing over 2‚000 tech experts from over 91 countries‚ Ramaphosa said currently 20 million South Africans did not use the internet due to unaffordable data prices‚ lack of internet-enabled devices and lack of access.
“Yet‚ about 87% of households in South Africa have access to mobile phones‚ presenting us with a great opportunity to overcome digital exclusion and to drive inclusive growth and innovation‚” he said.
Ramaphosa told the gathering at the event‚ organised annually by the ITU‚ the United Nations specialised agency for information and communication technology (ICT)‚ that developing technology should not only be for the elite.
“It is our task to ensure that the 4th Industrial Revolution improves the human condition and that no one is left behind.”
It is our task to ensure that this digital revolution responds to the needs of the developing world. It must assist in overcoming unemployment‚ not exacerbate it. It must bridge the digital divide‚ not widen it.”
Ramaphosa told the tech experts‚ who over the next few days will debate under the theme ‘Innovation for smarter digital development’‚ that he believed that there was a strong correlation between innovation and growth.
“South Africa recently embarked on an investment drive to attract $100-billion in new investment in the country over the next five years.
“This is part of a broader effort to set the economy on a new path of growth‚ employment and transformation.”
Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister Siyabonga Cwele said the conference‚ a first of its kind on the continent‚ would allow South Africans SMMEs to showcase their products on a global stage.