The Department of Communications yesterday hosted an Inter-Departmental Stakeholder Workshop on ICT in Pretoria as the second step in engaging South Africans as part of the ICT Policy Review Panel.
The workshop drew inputs from senior managers from the departments of Science and Technology, Basic Education, Higher Education and Training, Health, Trade and Industry, Home Affairs, Public Service and Administration, Arts and Culture. There was input also from the Independent Communications Authority of SA and the State Information Technology Agency.

“The work of the ICT Policy Review Panel is fundamentally important,” says Communications Minister Yunus Carrim.

“We can’t over-emphasise the role of ICT in economic growth and development and in improving service delivery. The Department will give every material and other support to the Panel to ensure that it finishes its work within the deadlines and produces work of the necessary quality. We urge the Panel to engage with the widest range of stakeholders possible in processing their work.”

The workshop marked the start of the next phase of public engagements by the ICT Policy Review Panel, after initially inviting input from South Africans through written submissions.

“Ultimately, the work of the ICT Policy Review Panel has to result in a policy and legislation that benefits civil society, business and the state far more, that is robust to withstand cyber attacks and is of a quality and cost that is comparable with similar developing countries,” says Carrim.

Joe Mjwara, chairperson of the ICT Policy Review, said there is a lot of ICT development work that is being done within government that the panel needed to tap into as it develops a comprehensive ICT policy overhaul.

“One of the first things we realised when we started our work was that there was a lot of useful ICT research that is available,” Mjwara says. “We decided that we won’t replicate research, but needed to access it to enrich our work. We’ll use input from all South Africans.”

He says the main intention of the exercise was for the panel to listen to what departments are doing in ICT, their priorities and what they need to ensure that service delivery is faster and more efficient.

The two main issues that emerged as challenges for the departments, he adds, were a shortage of specialist skills and the cost associated with the use of ICT.