The creation of an ICT research council in South Africa to drive integrated ICT research and development was put back on the table at the GovTech 2015 conference today.
At a roundtable attended by students, academics and government ICT officers, Deputy Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize stated that government was interested in ensuring inclusive participation in policy formation and other issues of relevance to the sector and was considering the feasibility of creating an expert advisory group to inform the agenda on research and innovation.
Her belief is that data, research and scientific evidence are essential in policy formulation – hence the idea of a research council.
The roundtable session was held to discuss a potential partnership for broadening the knowledge economy and information society, and all sectors of society including the public sector, private sector and academia were significant role-players in investigating the feasibility of providing a formal platform for this to take place.
In facilitating the session, National Lotteries Commission CIO Mothibi Ramusi highlighted four key themes for participants: the thought leadership needed to achieve South Africa’s e-government aims; the need for a baseline study to establish what is needed; the type of partnership that would be preferable; and the regulatory and policy issues that need to be managed in attaining a knowledge economy and information society.
A robust discussion followed, with contributions from ICT students from the Durban University of Technology, professors of several local universities, ICT entrepreneurs and government ICT leaders.
Eight areas for further investigation came out of the discussion:
* The need for a government structure to address the research and development needed to drive South Africa’s development into a knowledge economy;
* The issue of whether legislative change is needed to enable this development;
* The need to ensure that universities are producing skills needed to drive the move to a knowledge economy;
* The need to develop infrastructure to ensure South Africans in rural areas and townships have access to the information economy so they can participate;
* The cost implications of implementing a partnership;
* Incentives to drive research and development in the private sector;
* The need for an integrated ICT research and innovation council; and
* An engagement model to ensure women, SMMEs, people with disabilities and others are included.
The deputy minister acknowledged the apparent correlation that existed between the quality (and quantum) of in-company vocational training and youth employment and committed to taking the consultative process further, although she was unable, at this early stage, to provide time frames. The issue of establishing such a council was first posited in 2007.