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Durban shines spotlight on digital development

The recent ITU Telecom World 2018 in Durban has bolstered South Africa’s flagship initiatives to support information and communications technology (ICT) and tech-driven small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) development.

The event, hosted by the Department of Telecommunications and Post of the Republic of South Africa, took place at the Durban International Convention Centre (Durban ICC) from 10-13 September 2018.

Developing knowledge and skills through digital innovation in order to grow and transform the local economy were high on the agenda for the host city. The conference, themed “Innovation for smarter digital development”, brought together heads of state, industry, tech SMEs, policy makers, investors, corporates and digital innovators to discuss accelerating ICT innovations that will enhance social and economic development.

The South African government’s national Digital Society SA strategy aims to position the country as a significant player in the development of ICTs throughout the value chain, accelerate uptake in all socio-economic sectors, increase inclusion, and transform the country into a fully digital society.

Key initiatives include fostering inclusive development, stimulating public and private infrastructure and providing affordable universal access to devices and services. South Africa is well positioned to become one of the leading developers of local content on the continent, with measures to develop and protect local intellectual property, and a massive skills development programme to underpin the growth of ICTs throughout society.

The ICT SMME Development Strategy works in parallel to facilitate the growth and entry of small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) into the ICT sector, with a particular focus on youth and women entrepreneurs, to drive job creation, innovation and socio-economic growth.​

The event welcomed more than 3,100 participants from 94 countries, including more than 200 information and communication technology (ICT) leaders, 33 ministers, and 125 SME exhibitors from across the globe. More than 150 speakers took part in 43 panel sessions covering areas such as 5G, IoT, Artificial Intelligence (AI), smart cities, digital literacy, supporting tech SME growth, and the challenges and opportunities of the digital age.

Siyabonga Cyprian Cwele, Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services for South Africa, said: “The conference has provided an opportunity for Africa’s voice to be heard in important global ICT debates and discussions. We shall take forward the advice of President Cyril Ramaphosa who said we must ensure that women, the youth and small-, medium- and micro-sized enterprises play a critical role in advances in technology. The legacy of having hosted this event in the year we celebrate the life of Tata Nelson Mandela must be to see the SMMEs which are exhibiting here blossoming. The possible partnerships, investment and new markets they were able to make must realise measurable returns. We must enhance collaboration on infrastructure rollout and digital skills training.”

Lindiwe Rakharebe, Durban ICC’s Chief Executive Officer added that the South African government and City of Durban has identified innovation as one of the key drivers of local economic development and job creation.

“Through the Innovate Durban Programme, the City of Durban has demonstrated its commitment to enhancing the culture of innovation in business in line with the radical economic transformation agenda. The Durban ICC is the perfect venue for industry leaders to connect with SMEs and digital entrepreneurs in the ICT sector, to explore partnership solutions and share best international practice that will have a positive impact on the local economic growth.”

At the conference South Africa also announced the formation of the African Digital Transformation Centre, which will support entrepreneurs and lead work on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, based on key pillars of: policy and governance, innovation and SMEs, connecting the unconnected, and the social impact of digital transformation.  

 

(via ITU,ICC Durban)