The Deputy Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, has emphasised the importance for big industry players to contribute towards the development of small businesses as the digital revolution requires everybody to get involved.
According to the Deputy Minister, Cabinet has approved her department’s Small, Medium and Micro-sized Enterprises (SMMEs) strategy, which is aimed at growing the sector.
“This is a strategy that defines the path that we want to see SMMEs taking. If it means we have to introduce enforcement via regulations, we will do it if big industry resists. Ours is to make sure that we help grow the SMME industry so that our economy can grow… and everybody in South Africa will have access to the wealth we are creating,” the Deputy Minister said on Tuesday.
She said the digital revolution requires not only government but everybody to be involved.
“If we as government are encouraging SMMEs to be innovative and [we] realise the role they play in terms of growing the economy… we have a responsibility to create an enabling environment for them,” Ndabeni-Abrahams said.
The Deputy Minister participated in a Ministerial Roundtable at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Telecom World Conference 2018 at the iNkosi Albert Luthuli Convention Centre in Durban.
The discussion was on government enabling smarter digital development.
The Deputy Minister said government has a responsibility to make sure that South Africans have access to communication.
“We need to make sure that our people are connected. As we make sure that our people are connected, we realise also that it’s not just about them being connected with the purposes of consuming but they also need to derive economic spin offs in the connectivity that we are talking about,” she said
In an effort to bridge the digital divide, government is currently implementing the South Africa Connect programme, which seeks to connect eight districts to broadband.
South Africa has 98% population coverage, while there are currently 20 million South Africans who do not use the internet.
“We have a responsibility to adopt or develop enabling policies as well as a responsibility to introduce incentives to operators and those who will be deploying the infrastructure because our people in the rural areas have been left behind,” she said.
MTN Group CEO Rob Shuter said to achieve digital inclusion, South Africa needs to work on the entry level cost of data and look for innovative solutions to rollout rural coverage.
“There are policy matters that could help tremendously. The 900 spectrum band is the key to answer some of the challenges that face us. In many markets where the industry started off with three, four or five operators, you have quite a lot of spectrum that sitting almost dormant or idle.
“The policy objective around spectrum should not just be about allocation but how we deal with existing spectrum that is not being used,” Shuter said.
The ITU Telecom World conference is being held on the African continent for the first time.