Department of Communications & Presidential National Commission on Information Society & Development: Strategic Plan & Budget 2009/12

NCOP Public Enterprises and Communication

08 July 2009
Chairperson: Ms M Themba (ANC, Mpumalanga)
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Meeting Summary

The strategic plans and budgets for the Department of Communications and the Presidential National Commission on Information Society and Development were presented. The Department’s mandate was to create a favourable Information and Communication Technology (ICT) environment that ensured South Africa had the capacity to advance its socio-economic goals, support the renewal of Africa and contribute to building a better world. In order to do so, it had the strategic goals to develop ICT policies and legislation, and sustainable accelerated and shared growth, develop a robust, reliable and affordable ICT infrastructure, strengthen the regulator, enhance the capacity of and exercise oversight over State Owned Enterprises that attended to delivery, and to fulfil South Africa’s international ICT obligations. The Presidential National Commission on Information Society and Development (PNC) was established in 2001, to advise the Presidency on the use of ICT to optimise the pace and the extent of addressing South Africa’s development challenges and global competitiveness. Its strategic goals were similar to those of the Department. The Information Society and Development Plan (ISAD) was implemented at provincial level and the PNC would therefore leverage political leadership and provincial development plans through its institutional mechanisms. It focused on youth empowerment through participation, prioritising second-economy interventions, and previously marginalised people. It would integrate and coordinate the building of the Information Society by effective functioning of the Cluster and IGRF Technical Committee, as well as developing a hub of government machinery and sharing experience and expertise. The budget of the Department was R2.2 billion, of which around 60% was allocated to transfers. Telkom had an allocation of R450 million to meet its obligations for 2010. The State Owned Enterprises included the South African Post Office, South African Broadcasting Corporation, Sentech, National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa, the Universal Service and Access Agency and the “.za”  domain name authority. The budget for these, and their functions, was described.  It was noted that there were 429 positions, of which 77 were funded but not filled, and a further 76 were vacant and unfunded. The various programmes were described for each of the units. Despite the budget cuts, five of the priorities were to continue in full force, being the Broadcasting Digital Migration, the National Radio Frequency Spectrum, Cyber-security, affordable, reliable, robust and secure ICT Infrastructure, and the Information Society and Development Hubs Programme.

Members asked about the registration of SIM card holders, and whether this would be achieved within the 18 months specified. Several concerns were expressed on the vacancy rate, the nature of the unfunded vacancies,
how critical these positions were, the breakdown of staff statistics, and how the vacancies affected the work of the Department. The Department was asked about plans to develop cooperatives, the problems at the SABC and how these had been identified and were being addressed, the development of the Uhurunet cable project, and the cost to South Africa, and the plan to move to digital migration by 2011, and what would happen to those without the necessary technology. The Department briefed the Members fully on the 70% subsidy that would be granted to the poor to acquire their Set Top Boxes, and on the Department’s plans for the Set Top Box manufacture and export. Members also queried how many jobs the Department was likely to create to address the 500 000 jobs mentioned in the State of the Nation Address, how it was dealing with the Dinaledi projects, whether it was cooperating with the Department of Education, which Department had budgeted for the project, and whether the private sector was also involved. Members requested a break down of e-Cooperatives in each province, and suggested that the criteria for training youth be extended.

Meeting report

Department of Communications (DOC) Strategic Plan and Budget 2009 – 2012
Ms Gerda Gräbe, Acting Director-General, Department of Communications, apologised that the Minister of Communications was unable to attend due to the changed schedule for this meeting. She noted that the presentation would be longer than usual, in order to orientate the new Committee Members on the work of the Department of Communications (DOC) and its personnel.

She noted that the
Department developed its 2009-2012 Strategic Plan in line with the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) informed by the electoral mandate period of 2009-2014. The Strategic Plan underwent reprioritisation following the budget cuts that were imposed after the initial allocation from the National Treasury.   The mandate of the Department was to create a favourable Information and Communication Technology (ICT) environment that ensured South Africa had the capacity to advance its socio-economic goals, support the renewal of Africa and contribute to building a better world. Its vision was to be a global leader in the development and use of ICT for socio-economic development.

She explained that the Presidential National Commission on Information Society & Development (PNC)
was established in 2001, to advise the Presidency on the use of ICT to optimise the pace and the extent of addressing South Africa’s development challenges and global competitiveness. Its facilitation of an inclusive information society would ensure that South-Africa did not fall behind the rest of the world as a result of the digital divide, and would also ensure that human rights, socio-economic prosperity and participatory democracy were fully realised through using ICT to achieve a better life for all.

Gräbe explained that the first strategic goal was to enable maximisation of investment in the ICT sector, through development and implementation of ICT policies and strategies. Secondly, it would ensure that ICT infrastructure as robust, reliable, affordable, and secured to meet the needs of the country and its people. This would be achieved by supporting and enabling the provision of a multiplicity of ICT applications and services and modernising the infrastructure. The third goal was to accelerate the socio-economic development by increasing access to and usage of ICT, by developing partnerships with business, civil society, and all three spheres of government. This would involve increasing universal access, increasing the ICT skills base, facilitating the growth and improving sustainability of Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) through ICT, and promoting ICT by ensuring integrated and efficient service delivery to communities. The fourth strategic goal aimed to build an effective information-age organisation that contributed to the effective functioning of the Cluster and contributed to building a single Public Service. Another goal was to enhance the role of the SOEs as delivery arms of government, and to provide effective and efficient oversight. Finally, it aimed to contribute to the building of an inclusive Information Society globally, prioritising Africa’s development. This involved participation in New Economic Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), as well as African multilateral and bilateral ICT programmes, strengthening of South-South cooperation, participating in major summits and conferences and implementing their outcomes, and contributing to an enabling internet environment.

The PNC had a similar medium term strategic map. It was pointed out that the Information Society and Development Plan (ISAD) found expression at provincial level, through strategic development plans and integrated development plans. PNC would thus leverage political leadership through its institutional mechanisms such as the Inter-Ministerial Committee on ISAD, the Cluster and Inter Government Relations Forum (IGRF). It also had a focus on the youth, to ensure their active participation in information society programmes. The third goal was to improve the quality of life of the poor by prioritising second-economy interventions in building the Information Society. It especially promoted use of ICT by SMMEs, women, youth, people with disability, and the non-formal sector. The goal of integrating and coordinating the building of the Information Society, whilst accelerating and improving service delivery, would be achieved by effective functioning of the Cluster and IGRF Technical Committee. Further goals included development of a hub of government machinery to develop the information society, and making South Africa and the continent integral and equal members of the global information society. This would be achieved by sharing of experience and expertise.

Mr Harry Mthabathe, Deputy Director General: Finance and ECT Enterprise Development, DOC, noted that the Department had a budget of R2.2 billion, and this remained fairly static over the three year period. One-off items related mostly to Soccer World Cup 2010 projects. 60% of the budget went to transfers; of which R1.3 billion went to State Owned Enterprises. Telkom was given an allocation of R450 million to meet the obligations for 2010. The administration budget was quite small.

Mr Mthabathe listed the SOEs under the Department. These included the South African Post Office (SAPO), the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), which was divided into public broadcasting services and commercial broadcasting services. Sentech initially distributed broadcasting signals, but now mainly supported office integrated ICT services to the country. The National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa (NEMISA) was a training institute for broadcasting and multimedia. The Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA) promoted universal services and access to communications technologies and services for South Africa, and also managed the Universal Service Fund. The “dot za” Domain Name Authority was established in terms of Chapter 10 of the Electronic Communications Act of 2002 (ECT) to take responsibility for the .za domain name space. The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) was responsible for regulating the telecommunications and broadcasting industries in the public interest, to ensure affordable and high quality services for all South Africans. Mr Mthabathe gave a breakdown of budget allocation to SEOs (see attached presentation).

Ms Gräbe outlined the human resource capacity, noting that there were 429 positions, of which only 306 were filled. An additional 30 personnel were absorbed into the structure after the restructuring of the Department, so that no one would lose his or her job. There were 153 vacant positions, but only 77 positions were funded, because of the budget cuts. One of the Department’s priorities was to fill those funded posts.

Gräbe referred to the budget allocations and proceeded to discuss the deliverables under each of the programmes (see attached document for more detail) She indicated that the programme focusing on ICT Policy Development was to develop and monitor the implementation of the National Broadband Policy, would develop an Integrated National ICT Policy, with a view to developing legislation, and would implement a three-year programme of action to reduce the costs and improve quality, availability and usage of ICTs. In this year it would implement the Set Top Box (STB) manufacturing sector development strategy, in preparation for the move to digital television, and would work on ownership support of STBs for the poor. Local and digital content development strategies would also be worked upon. Another priority was the rollout of postal addresses, with a focus on rural areas, together with SAPO, and work on implementation of conference outcomes. Three Bills would be introduced, being the Postbank Bill, the SA Post Office Limited Bill and the Public Service Broadcasting Bill.

Gräbe noted that the Meraka e-Skills Institute would be put into operation. Ms Gräbe explained that there had until now been a mismatch between ICT skills training and the skills that were required in the workplace, and during July 2002 Cabinet had approved establishment of an advanced institute for ICT, which would undertake research and development (R&D), applications development and skills development. The Department of Science and Technology (DST) was responsible for the R&D and applications development, and DOC had to implement the skills development.

The ICT Infrastructure Development programme would focus on development and monitoring the implementation of the Cyber Security Policy, would establish the SA National Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT), would fulfil the ICT guarantees under the FIFA 2010 World Cup, and develop and implement the 2010 Legacy Plan.  This programme would also deal with the policy on National Radio Frequency Spectrum Usage, would audit the spectrum up to 1000 GHz, would connect the Dinaledi schools and give network coverage to surrounding government institutions. The E-Schools connectivity plan would be developed and monitored. The outcomes of ITU conferences (run by a specialized body of the United Nations on ICT issues) would be implemented. A National Internet Policy would be developed and monitored.

The ICT International Affairs & Trade Support focused on development of the UhuruNet sub-marine cable, and the UmojaNet terrestrial cable, which were NEPAD projects. IT would participate in global governance institutions, including African, multilateral and bilateral ICT programmes, the IBSA Information Society, South-South cooperation and multilateral partnerships, as listed.

ICT Enterprise Development would look at the growth and increased business efficiency of SMMEs through increased uptake and usage of ICTs and by linking ICT enterprises to new opportunities in the sector. It would also do oversight of SOEs and ensure alignment of their Strategic Plans with government priorities, and monitor their performance.

The Administration Programme would develop and implement an e-Awareness Strategy, making people aware of digital migration, promoting integration of ICT across all spheres of government, and implementing the Annual Stakeholder Engagement strategy. It aimed to improve departmental business processes and mainstream issues related to gender, disability, youth and children in the programmes of the Department and its SOEs.

The provinces would be supported to incorporate the ISAD plan into their Provincial Development Plans. PNC would support the effective functioning of the e-Skills Council, and help to implement its recommendations, and would also develop and implement the Youth e-Cooperatives Sustainability Strategy, the e-Literacy training programme for children in conflict with the law, computer literacy for rural women, and the e-Content SMME strategy. The National Digital Repository on cultural heritage would be made fully operational. PNC would measure development of the Information Society in South Africa, to support decision making. It would provide secretariat and professional support to the ISAD institutional mechanisms.

Gräbe again made reference to the budget cuts. The Department had five priorities that were not negotiable. She listed these as work on the Broadcasting Digital Migration, the National Radio Frequency Spectrum, Cyber-security, affordable, reliable, robust and secure ICT Infrastructure, and the Information Society and Development Hubs Programme. The DOC had no concurrent function in the provinces, and the SOEs were the delivery arms of the DOC. The Intergovernmental Relations Framework Act No 13 of 2005 encouraged Cabinet to establish a National Intergovernmental Relations Forum (IGR) to facilitate and promote policy and related matters, and the former Minister had launched the ISAD IGR Forum on 12 December 2006, which was a consultative forum enabling the Minister to raise ICT matters of national interest with provincial and local government. It would enable national policy to be developed for matters affecting ICTs in all areas, would monitor and implement such policy and align ICT plans and priorities to prevent failures and take corrective action where necessary. Overall, it would increase the impact of ICTs in support of more effective, efficient and timely service delivery.

Gräbe noted that special projects included the Meraka e-Skills Institute, setting up pilot sites in Limpopo, KwaZulu Natal and Eastern Cape for FIFA 2010 Legacy Projects, which would focus on the use of ICT in social networking and the building of social cohesion, e-Skills seminars in rural areas, and a collaborative project with CISCO to develop a markets programme in more than 130 developing economies. The Department was working with provinces on their Provincial Broadband strategies and implementation. 2500 young people would be targeted to participate in the National Youth ISAD programme, to increase their economic participation. 100 e-Cooperatives were established to increase entry of youth-owned small enterprises into the ICT Sector. 900 women in construction were listed on the e-commerce construction web portal to increase their business exposure and sustainability. ICT related issues were being mainstreamed. The National ICT Work programme was developed with the traditional leadership institutions.

The Chairperson referred to the registration of mobile phone SIM card holders. Many of those living in rural areas did not have a physical address, and she asked how the Department would assist to ensure that people would be able to register their SIM cards as required by the new legislation, how awareness could be created, and what the process of the digital TV signal project was.

Mr Mokwing Nhlapo, Deputy Director General: ISAD and Chief Operations Officer of PNC, responded by giving a short background on the legislation regarding Regulation and Interception of Communications (RICA), which was driven by the Department of Justice and Constitutional development, and which was recently amended to require all mobile phone service providers to register the purchasers of all SIM cards, both contract and pre-paid. The Department of Communications saw this as an opportunity not only to assist in law enforcement, but also to train young people. The service providers were not sure how many subscribers they currently had, but would be reverting back to the Department on this point.

Mr Z Mlanzana (COPE Eastern Cape) stated that he appreciated the work of the Department. He asked about the vacancy rate, the nature of the unfunded vacancies, and how critical these positions were. He noted the problems that this National Department had in establishing links with provincial and local government, and asked what their plan was to establish co-operatives.

Mr H Groenewald (DA North-West) also sought more information on whether the vacancies were technical or administrative in nature, and the effect of the vacancies on the Department.

The Chairperson requested a breakdown of the staff in terms of race, gender and disabilities.

Ms B Baloyi, Acting Deputy Director General: Policy Development, DOC, referred to the gender breakdown and stated that 56% of the personnel was female. 2.2% of personnel were disabled. At senior level management, 42% were female. She referred to the vacant positions and stated that most of these positions are very critical. 62 of these positions were at senior management level. She stated that DOC had looked at its priorities and ensured that the branches that were responsible for those priorities were well capacitated.

The Chairperson asked if there was a gender focal point in the Department.

Ms Baloyi stated that there was a Director and a Deputy Director responsible for the implementation of employment equity.

The Chairperson noted that the Department oversaw SOEs, and referred to the governance problems facing the SABC. She asked when the Department became aware of these problems and what had been done to address these challenges. She asked what the proposed funding was for the SABC.

Mr Nhlapo stated that in respect of the SABC, the Minister would enter into a shareholder contract to set out key performances that the SABC must achieve, which would be aligned with government and departmental objectives. In the normal course, the performance agreement would be monitored for a year. The Department, however, monitored the SABC by getting quarterly reports, and the late Minister had also met with the Board twice a year. The Department had identified the problems at quite an early stage, and the late Minister had interacted with the Board and spoken to them about fixing the challenges. However, there was another problem in that no single authority, in terms of the legislation, had complete control over the performance of the Board. The Minister had indicated that there was a need to look at the SABC legislation to address some of the challenges. The Department, therefore, was aware of and was working hard to solve the issues.

Mr Groenewald asked how far the Department was with the Uhurunet project, how involved South Africa was, how many countries were participating and where the funding for this came from.

Mr Nhlapo stated that Uhurunet was progressing well. The Department was working in accordance with the protocol that was signed with the African States that were partaking in the rollout of UhuruNet. The protocol provided for at least twelve members for the project to operate, and currently about 14 countries were signatories to the Protocol. The South African government was not paying anything and the project would be privately funded by commercial enterprises and developmental institutes.

Mr Groenewald referred to the digital migration and the cut off date of 2011. He asked what would happen after the date to the people who did not have the right facilities.

Ms Gräbe stated that the digital signal was switched on in 2008, on 30 October. The digital signal was being piloted in certain areas and about 1 000 Set Top Boxes (STBs) were distributed to see how the digital signal worked. The current plan was that early in the new financial year the signal would be made available for public use. She stated that the analogue signal would be switched off on 1 November 2011. Anyone wanting to access the TV broadcast signal would, by that date, require either a digital television or an STB that converted the digital signal back to an analogue signal. There would need to be development of the STBs. One of the Department’s major projects for this year was to set up the manufacturing of the STBs, with the intention also to export them to develop industry, as the rest of Africa would also soon be switching to digital signals. Many of those households owning television were, however, very poor, and would not be able to afford STBs at the full price. There had therefore been approval by Cabinet that a portion of the cost of the STB could be subsidized. The DOC was working with the Departments of Finance and of Social Development, both of whom had databases of those receiving social assistance, and would define who would qualify for the subsidy, which could include pensioners, those on a disability grant or those owning below a certain income.

Mr Groenewald asked what the cost of a STB was and what the subsidy for the STB was likely to be.

Mr Tau referred to the medium term strategy and budget, and stated that he did not see this point reflected in the budget. He also pointed out that the prices of the STBs would not be the same over a period of two years. He requested clarity on this subject.

Ms Gräbe stated that the Department was currently estimating the price of the STB as around R700. When the Department created the policy surrounding the digital migration, it had realised that this provided an opportunity to be innovative and address the digital divide in the country. The STB should ideally also have the capability to provide e-Government services and information, which would contribute to people’s empowerment. Government had approved that a 70% subsidy would be given, no matter what the price of the STB might be. She stated that the analogue signal could not be switched off unless the DOC had sorted out all of the challenges.

Mr Nhlapo said that the biggest advantage of the digital migration was that it used spectrum efficiently, and there would be a much bigger coverage of TV signals. For instance, the SABC would in theory be able to have 20 channels, which could be available country wide. There was minimal funding for this in the budget up to 2011. However, the Department did discuss this with National Treasury on an annual basis and anticipated having funding for 2011 and 2012.

Ms L Maija (ANC, Limpopo) referred to the 500 000 jobs promised by the President in the State of the Nation Address, and requested that the Department indicate how many of these it planned to provide, and how it would start the process.

Ms Gräbe stated that the Department did not target a specific number of jobs to be created, but many of their activities, like the e-Cooperatives, would provide job creation by skilling people.

Mr R Tau (ANC, Northern Cape) said that during their Strategic Plan and Budget presentation, the Department of Education had spoken of the need to revolutionise Information Technology in schools. The Department of Communications had similar goals with its Dinaledi school projects. He asked which Department would budget for this project, whether the departments were working together, how far the programme had gone and what results it had shown.

Mr Tau also requested a breakdown to indicate how many e-Cooperatives existed in each province.

Mr Nhlapo stated that there were challenges around enterprise development in the ICT sector. This was a highly skilled sector, and that a business model was needed to accelerate entry to the sector. There had been 96 cooperatives established nationally: Mpumalanga had ten, Northern Cape had ten, North West had 20, Eastern Cape had seven, Limpopo had 22, Western Cape had five, KwaZulu Natal had 20, Gauteng had 11, and Free State had 13. Young people were identified by Umsombomvu and the National Youth Commission and were sent to the Department for training. The challenge was to sustain these cooperatives.

The Chairperson asked what criteria were being used to identify the young people selected for training.

Mr Nhlapo stated that the young people must be unemployed and have matric. The National Youth Commission would work through the Provincial Youth Commissions to identify the candidates. The aim was to create a model where the cooperatives created a community digitisation centre, which would then benefit the communities and the schools in the areas without internet access.

Ms A Grond, Chief Director: e-Government ICT Infrastructure and Applications, DOC, added that the DOC was working with the Department of Education on various projects, as also with the PNC, especially concerning the Dinaledi schools. She stated that in the provinces there were programmes for connectivity in schools, and a national model was being worked on. 50% of the schools were classed as No-Fee Schools, and funding was a serious question. The Dinaledi schools projects had various aspects. The SOEs were responsible for the building of the structures. The Department of Education was responsible for the training of the teachers. Funding, as previously mentioned, was a problem, and there were issues as to who should pay for the capital and who should pay for the operational expenses. There was money available in the SOEs and in the Department, but the budget constraints also had an effect on this project. As yet no results could be given, as none of the schools had been connected, but the feasibility study done by the Department of Education showed the positive potential of this project.

Mr Tau suggested that the DOC must engage with the Department of Education, because the impression created was that there was a budget for these projects in the Department of Education. He also asked what the role of the private sector was, because it was important for them to buy into projects.

Mr M Sibande (ANC, Mpumalanga) referred to the
96 cooperatives mentioned, and asked Mr Nhlapo what criteria were being used, because it seemed that there were discrepancies in the number of e-cooperatives in the different provinces.

The Chairperson
requested the contact information of the e-cooperatives in order that the Members could visit them during their constituency period.

Mr Nhlapo said that he would provide the Committee with the contact details. He stated that the North West province had the most cooperatives, because that province’s provincial government responded the most positively to the Department’s workshops and requests for candidates. It was the provinces that drove this project. The focus of this project had shifted from creating cooperatives, to sustaining cooperatives

The Chairperson referred to the criteria for young people to join the cooperatives and suggested that geographical spread and gender be added to these criteria.

Mr Nhlapo stated that all the SOEs were headed by women and a significant number of women were Chief Executive Officers.

Mr Nhlapo also added that the Department would work with the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) to advance the sustainability of community radio stations, which had previously been one of the infrastructure problems. The Department had commenced training in financial management and governance, which were found to be lacking at the community radio stations, and was also looking at a programme to share best practices between these stations.

Adoption of Committee Minutes
The Committee adopted the minutes of its meeting of 24 June.

The meeting was adjourned.


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