Kathy Gibson at the Gauteng Provincial Government Technology & Innovation Conference – Like climate change, the digital revolution is upon us here in South Africa and in Gauteng.
In fact, Gauteng is at the forefront of the revolution in the continent, says Dr Siyabonga Cwele, minister of telecommunications and postal services.

Gauteng has a comparative advantage in exploiting the opportunities presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution because it has the infrastructure, Dr Cwele adds.

“Gauteng is also the centre of skills production, and has a high concentration of content production. So we have all the ingredients to exploit this revolution.”

Currently, ICT contributes about 3% of South Africa’s GDP. Dr Cwele points out that this is larger than the contribution from agriculture and at almost the same level as the contribution from tourism.

Two-thirds of this comes from telecommunications services, which contributes about 1,9% to the GDP.

Currently, Dr Cwele says, much of the equipment used in telecommunications, radio, television and computing is imported, which leads to a huge trade deficit in ICT.

“If we can increase our share of ICT-related industries, if we can increase our computing services, if we can increase manufacturing, and increase content and media services this will help us to deal with the trade deficit.”

Gauteng is best poised to meet these challenges, he adds. Localisation is already growing, with international companies starting to manufacture their goods in the economic development zones. Plus, a number of global organisations have set up innovation centres in South Africa, and particularly in Johannesburg.

Dr Cwele stresses that South Africa needs to embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution not only for technology’s sake, but because it offers an opportunity for the country to leapfrog development.

In fact, revolution is already having an impact on policy-making, regulations and business practices, Dr Cwele adds.

Government has set in place a number of policies and plans that will help to facilitate the Fourth Industrial Revolution in South Africa.

The National Development Plan underpins all the other policies, which include the National Integrated ICT White Paper as an overarching policy framework.

Other policies include the National ICT strategy that articulates the path to a knowledge economy, the National E-government Strategy is about improving accessibility and services, and the ICT SMME strategy is a driver of innovation and job creation.

The department is also co-operating on the National Digital Skills Strategy and policies around e-commerce.