It is indeed exciting and reassuring to address a gathering of this nature. It is exciting because of the anticipation of innovations that will contribute to the betterment of the lives of the people who entrusted us with both their plight and the future of their offspring.
It is also re-assuring because in the super-fast-paced era that we find ourselves in, peer deference, collaboration, assessment and replanning are crucial if we are to achieve our mandate.
The interconnectedness of the mandates of the private and public sectors means that one cannot prosper without the other. In any case, we serve the same people.
Programme Director, without information communication and technology, we are dead in the water. I do not have to educate this audience on the extent to which ICT impacts our lives. However, let me mention a few. Without ICT we cannot:
• Pay grants.
• Issue identity documents.
• Conduct trade.
• Issue business licences.
• Save lives in ambulances and health centres.
• Educate future generations.
Imagine what would have happened if we did not have communication technology such as cellular and online communication when COVID-19 struck. While movement was rightfully restricted, government had to function to avert a total calamity.
In order to take full advantage of the boundless possibilities provided by ICT innovations, we have identified a slew of crucial enablers. chief among these is broad band. As provincial government we are determined to create a SMART Province.
Programme Director, as part of the KwaZulu-Natal Digital Transformation Strategy, the province aims to deliver a citizen-centric plan which guides the leap to a digitally transformed society in our Province. As such our strategy is awake to the reality that the province is currently only 27% connected, and we have identified the need to accelerate the connectivity of the entire province.
As such we are accelerating efforts to roll out broadband across the province in order to ensure universal connectivity in our province. This will ensure that we position our province as a technological hub and therefore unlock a confluence of endless possibilities.
A CITIZEN-CENTRIC DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION STRATEGY
Programme Director, the critical areas of underdevelopment include innovation around information and communications technology systems, network connectivity, and more sustainable technologies. This limits the ability of businesses and the public sector to adopt the capacity needed to transition into the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) and the green economy, and to bolster South Africa’s regional advantage.
Through partnership with business, civil society and labour, KwaZulu-Natal is targeting the attainment of a meritocratic state with professional capabilities in ICT and modern business processes. The province’s improved competitiveness through agile ICT adoption will lead to a giant leap in industrialisation and the emergence of new globally competitive sectors.
Amongst others, our Digital Transformation Strategy will aid Government-to-Government Interaction across spheres, Government-to-Citizen Interaction, and Government-to-Business Interaction.
Aligned to this, in October 2022 the province launched the first Mobile Digital Analytics Skills Laboratory to expose school children from an early age to Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies. We are creating an environment where innovation is nurtured and supported and to catch up with the rest of the world.
A citizen-centric approach promotes digital literacy as a basic skill, encourages incorporation of ICT in education, workforce preparation and government services. It enhances technological innovation and skills readiness and strengthens digitisation infrastructure at all educational levels,
Network changes are critical to enable IT processes to be automated and to end all manual processes. They are also urgently needed to enhance quality performance of urban services like energy, connectivity, transportation, utilities and others to improve quality of life.
BUILDING A SMART KWAZULU-NATAL
We are hard at work. We are rolling out Wi-Fi hotspots and Digi-centres in townships and rural centres such as libraries, schools, health youth zones and community service centres
The Office of the Premier rolled out a series of 4IR Activations to install Wi-Fi hotspots that will give schools and citizens the ability to have connectivity to the Internet and trained 3 875 youth in four activated districts covering 16 areas.
Digital hubs were installed at the schools to enable the pupils to have access to equipment. The teachers were also trained in data science to include in their school’s curriculum to ensure the pupils will be trained on areas of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics.
Further, all 164 provincial libraries have wi-fi connectivity and all hospitals and clinics are connected. All Provincial departments are connected, however by October 2030 all will have public facing wi-fi connectivity.
It pleases us to report that the Department of Transport is in engagement with the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), the custodians of the NaTIS, to investigate the implementation of the online registration system, which will then be piloted in the uMgungundlovu and eThekwini Districts.
To date, the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA) has spent almost R8,6 million in rolling out digital centres across the province.
The Moses Kotane Institute's (MKI) Digital Centres in KwaZulu-Natal continues to make remarkable progress in fostering digital empowerment across the region. From the picturesque landscapes of Okhahlamba to the vibrant communities of uMlazi, each centre serves as a hub for technological advancement. Through strategic partnerships, cutting-edge training programs, and access to modern technology, the communities of Ndwedwe, Greater Kokstad, KwaMashu, uPhongolo, Harry Gwala, Mandeni, Richmond, uMfolozi, Amahlubi, uMdoni, Nkandla (Mamba), Jozini, and uMlazi are gaining the tools they need to thrive in the digital age. As these centres continue to flourish, they play an essential role in bridging the digital divide and driving socio-economic growth in the province.
VISION 2030 AND INTERGOVERNMENTAL COLLABORATION
Programme Director, the collaboration with Vodacom is an important step toward the realization of Vision 2030, which is to make KwaZulu Natal a SMART province, as per the Broadband Rollout Plan for the Province finalized in 2021.
Creating a SMART province is not only about installing infrastructure and software for provincial departments. It is also about SMART towns, cities, villages and homes. The nature of ICT is such you cannot take advantage of it if you are not aligned and empowered. Just give an example, in making the process of property transfers user-friendly and fast, it is not enough that the Deeds Office is digitizing title deeds. It is also imperative that municipalities also modernize and innovate when it comes to rates clearances.
It is also imperative that information systems of the three government levels talk to one another. If the issuance of the death certificate can trigger a stop on the bank accounts of the deceased, it is proof that system interaction is possible and desirable.
THE CHALLENGES AGAINST DIGITALIZATION
There is no gainsaying the fact that digitalization can alter the face of the developing world for the better, and that it can achieve this in the shortest possible time.
It is already accelerating socio-economic transformation, economic growth, connectivity, inclusion and job creation, to mention but a few.
Yet, there are objective factors, unique to the majority of countries in the underdeveloped and developing worlds, militating against the attainment of these universal objectives which are necessary for human development.
These include less reliable internet connectivity and electricity supply, slower mobile download speeds compared to the rest of the world, and high costs of accessing digital technologies relative to incomes.