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September 12, 2018

South Africa seizes the reins on smart digital transformation

By ITU News

South Africa is the proud host of ITU Telecom World 2018. Hosting this annual global tech event for governments, corporates and small- and medium-sized enterprizes (SMEs) is just a part of the African nation’s vision for achieving smart digital transformation.

Her Excellency Nomvula Mokonyane, South Africa’s Minister of Communications, detailed the country’s plans for a smart – and inclusive – digital future during an interview at ITU Telecom World 2018 in Durban. The importance of connecting the unconnected underpins the strategy Mokonyane described.

“It means adapting to new technologies and being able to even have the skilled capacity to deal with, particularly, the participation of young people.” – H.E. Nomvula Mokonyane, Minister of Communications, Republic of South Africa

The South African government views smart digital transformation as a pathway to inclusive growth, said Mokonyane as she highlighted the multiplier effects of smart digital solutions.

“With ‘smart’ it means it can be in a position to penetrate both urban and rural so that it becomes inclusive,” believes Mokonyane. Realizing the inclusive growth potential of smart digital transformation depends on adapting to new technologies, fostering digital innovation and entrepreneurship and making the Internet affordable and accessible for all.

In her view, smart digital transformation is also about equipping the next generation with digital skills. “It means adapting to new technologies and being able to even have the skilled capacity to deal with particularly the participation of young people.”

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Mokonyane also discussed the vision of South Africa as home to creators and producers of more digital products and services. She wants South Africans, “participating not only as consumers but as owners of products” in the digital economy.

Mokonyane affirmed that realizing this goal depends on South Africa spearheading innovation in information and communication technologies (ICTs) and increasing its competitiveness.

Hosting ITU Telecom World 2018 is a decisive step in fostering innovation and digital entrepreneurship. “It’s quite exciting for South Africa – in Africa – to be hosting this conference, because it also shows that we have the capacity [to be] competitive.”

On the historical significance of being the first African nation to host ITU Telecom World: “We don’t even see it as South Africa hosting. We’re hosting it as a part of Africa and on behalf of Africa.” – H.E. Nomvula Mokonyane

Indeed, the Acting Premier of KwaZulu Natal, Sihle Zikalala, said that hosting the event will spur projects that can strengthen Africa’s digital entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Leveraging smart digital transformation to advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is at the heart of South Africa’s agenda, and Mokonyane added that environmental management and gender equality are key pillars of the country’s march towards inclusive growth through digital innovation. She also emphasized the importance of people-centered technology development. “Part of what we should all be doing as we look at smart innovative development solutions [is] to also be concerned about the recipient, the human being,” she said.

Mokonyane highlighted the three-fold value of hosting the event. Firstly, on the historical significance of being the first African nation to host the event, she pointed out, “We don’t even see it as South Africa hosting. We’re hosting it as a part of Africa and on behalf of Africa.”

The second benefit is the chance to showcase the country’s heritage, and Mokonyane also made connections between South Africa’s rich history of communicating through various media and art forms and the power of ICTs to broadcast this cultural richness around the globe. “Communication has always been part of our heritage through song, dance, music . . . and therefore even with the advance of innovative solutions our heritage can now reach the world,” she said.

In closing, Mokonyane affirmed that playing host nation inspires hope: “In the midst of the global recession we can still inspire hope that the telecommunications sector can contribute to us growing our economy.”

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South Africa seizes the reins on smart digital transformation

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