ICT to play job-creation role: minister
Johannesburg - Telecommunications companies should contribute to job creation given the huge growth in their market, Minister of Communications Roy Padayachie said on Friday.
"We seek to guarantee that ICTs (information and communications technology firms) will make a substantive contribution as an enabler for economic growth and the creation of new jobs and skills amongst our people as we strengthen the foundation for a knowledge-based economy," he said.
Padayachie met the leaders of 30 ICT companies in Johannesburg to discuss how they could work together to create jobs.
He said that over the past four years, the total telecommunications market had grown from R131bn in 2007 to R179bn in 2010.
"It is estimated that the sector will grow to R187bn in 2011, with the possible figure estimated at R250bn by 2020," he said in a speech prepared for delivery.
The data market was expected to grow to about R28bn by 2020.
"In this context, cabinet has called on us to initiate programmes and activities that support the building of a new growth path for the country."
He said the communications department would play its part by restructuring to "provide policy leadership".
Said Padayachie: "We will continue in our endeavours to strengthen and capacitate the department to deliver on its constitutional mandate.
"As part of this exercise, we will finalise the institutional review process and fill all available vacancies within the next six months."
He was also committed to aligning the state-owned enterprises - the SABC, Sentech, regulatory body Icasa and Telkom [JSE:TKG] - with government's priorities, and to strengthening their governance structures.
The new growth path strategy targets broadband infrastructure development as a main area to fast-track economic development, including job creation, he said.
"We aim to improve our broadband penetration to match those of our comparative countries such as India, Brazil and Chile, to name but a few.
"Our immediate activity will be to develop an Integrated Broadband Plan that will facilitate capital investment, innovation and rural access by 2020."
The department also aimed to build an information society and knowledge economy.
"We have decided that through the e-Skills Institute, we will ensure mass e-skilling for the 21st Century knowledge-based industries so that our people can participate in the modern economy."
He said the immediate plan was to grow the creative industry, targeting areas like animation to create jobs.
The department would work with Icasa to ensure there was a pro-competition regulatory framework.
"To achieve this, we will review the current funding model of Icasa to ensure that it is equal to the task while regulating competitively."
He also promised to introduce policies to ensure the effective licensing of radio frequencies.
The department had created a draft proposal on how ICTs could help create jobs and has set up a task team on job creation.
"We will also endeavour to establish an ICT industry-wide working group on job creation, whose purpose will be to facilitate the identification of priority areas which will create jobs."
He said the obstacles to job creation in the ICT sector, as identified by Nedlac in 1994, were still relevant.
These included the cost of education and the increasing cost of retaining highly skilled professionals, as well as keeping talented youth in the country.
The minister hoped to achieve universal access and connectivity in rural areas and to use technology to meet society's needs through public-private partnerships with the ICT sector.
Padayacie's aims are more than commendable. However, the obstacles to job creation remain as identified in 1994 with a possible greater propensity for skilled professionals to leave the country. In the absence of skills and experience, the main potential for job creation lies in the digging of cable trenches. As with other areas in SA, a programme to bring back into ICT whatever skills remain here, presents a way forward.