Developing infrastructure in the form of Infraco, Sentech and undersea cables, while ensuring that education and training are geared to prepare young South Africans for the future are two of the main areas government will focus on in the coming year.
This is one of the messages from President Thabo Mbeki's State of the Nation address at the opening of Parliament today.
He outlined 24 Apex Priorities which all spheres of government are committed to addressing in order to meet an overarching goal of "Business Unusual".
These priorities fall into a number of main categories, including:
* The further acceleration of our economic growth and development;
* Speeding up the process of building the infrastructure we need to achieve our economic and social goals;
* Improving the effectiveness of our interventions directed at the Second Economy, and poverty eradication;
* Enhancing the impact of our programmes targeting the critically important area of education and training;
* Accelerating our advance towards the achievement of the goal of health for all;
* Revamping the criminal justice system to intensify our offensive against crime;
* Further strengthening the machinery of government to ensure that it has the capacity to respond to our development imperatives; and
* Enhancing our focus on key areas in terms of our system of international relations, with particular focus on some African issues and South-South relations.
"To speed up the process of building infrastructure we will finalise the development of an integrated infrastructure plan, with specific emphasis on energy efficiency," Mbeki said. "This entails co-ordinating the programmes of the State-owned Enterprises and overlaying all the infrastructure plans, including freight and other logistics, energy pipelines, information and communications technology, road infrastructure, water and electricity, both in terms of their timing and geographic location.
"Cutting across these plans, and therefore a critical priority, is information and communications technology both as a facilitator and a sector in its own right.
"Accordingly, we will this year complete the licensing and operationalisation of Infraco. Already, money has been allocated for Sentech to become a wireless internet wholesaler as well as finance its digitisation.
"Working with other governments on the continent and the private sector, we will complete the process to launch the undersea cables.
"At the same time, we aim to provide digital broadcasting to 50% of the population by the end of the year. Attached to this will be a manufacturing strategy for the development in South Africa of Set Top Boxes, which should be finalised by the middle of the year."
Another of the Apex Priorities, he says, is skills development and a review of the National Human Resource Development Strategy will be completed this year.
In addition, projects that the joint team of government, labour, business and academic institutions organised under the Joint Initiative on Priority Skills Acquisition (JIPSA) will be intensified.
"Indeed, we are greatly encouraged by the good response from the private sector as demonstrated through the commitment by the CEOs of 70 of the JSE-listed companies to work with government in addressing the challenge of scarce skills," says Mbeki.
"In addition to this work we will in the coming period prioritise further interventions in the further education and training (FET) colleges, the sector education and training authorities (SETAs), resourcing schools in the lowest three quintiles, freeing them from the responsibility to charge fees, and speeding up on-the-job training for professional graduates."
Mbeki also committed to improve all areas of government so that it meets its obligations to citizens – which includes intesifying the turnaround strategy for the Department of Home Affairs.
"This includes improving the information technology (IT) systems, training of staff on the new systems, rooting out corrupt elements and piloting the new ID card."