Kathy Gibson is at Satnac in Hermanus – Government, the telecommunications industry, the regulator and multiple industry stakeholders need to come together to solve fundamental economic challenges.

Telkom intends to bring together a multi-sectoral digital economy summit that will seek to bring together a range of stakeholders to start solving some of the challenges facing the economy.

Sipho Maseko, group CEO at Telkom SA, stresses that this summit needs to bring together players in multiple industries, as well as universities.

“We need to get not just the telecommunications sector to respond, but all industries,” he says. “We need to build as much consensus as possible. The imperatives are not just a telecommunications problem, but are all-pervasive.

“These problems relate to all sectors, including those that are excluded,” Maseko adds. “There are 27-million people who are not employed, and we need to make sure that whatever solutions are evolved do not forget about half the population who have effectively run out of road.

“We need to take technology and contextualise it.”

Connectivity will be as empowering as writing and other forms of communication were in the past, he adds.

The drivers of economic growth in the future will be infrastructure, skills and education, competition, and regulation and policy.

These will promote the communication and digital ecosystems that enable changing consumer digital lifestyle.

Without this ecosystem we won’t be able to empower digital innovation, increased data usage, data storage and increased access to data.

“Without these basics, we won’t be able to move forward as a country,” Maseko says.

However, the growth enabled by these elements is multiplied by a number of factors.

These include the content and interactive layer, the application layer, and the logical layer.

When it comes to regulation and policy, Maseko asks whether it is an enabler or whether it constrains innovation.

Any regulation or policy that doesn’t keep pace with digital transformation will stifle growth and innovation, Maseko adds.

When it does keep up it can be an enabler for data growth, as long as it has the correct intent, that it innovates itself, and that it equalises silos, sectors and layers.

“The challenge of economic recovery is not just a business challenge: it is also a challenge for regulators and policy-makers. If those players don’t all pull together, there cannot be a positive outcome.”

The bottom line when it comes to regulation is that it needs to enable competition and stimulate investment.

“If the policy makers don’t worry about helping the economy to recover, the burden is then shouldered by business,” Maseko says. “What we need is all-inclusive intervention, rather than intervention from business on its own.”

Maseko adds that all stakeholders need to ask how communications providers can transform themselves for growth in the current market.

“The question about growth is not just for the industry players, but it encompasses everyone.

“How does the regulatory framework empower this agenda?” he asks. “And what do all of the different stakeholders have to do?”

The industry also needs to come together to work out how to improve access to under-serviced communities, Maseko point out – and this involves more than just connectivity, but access to devices as well.

“How do we embrace innovation-led growth?” he asks. “The answer is that there has to be more collaboration.”

Possibly the most important question is how to build the right skill sets.

“There are very few people at the top end of the apex, while there are still many people who do not have access,” Maseko says. “The way we need to think about skills has to change.”

These questions need to be asked and answered by all industry players, by policy-makers and academia, he adds.