The Committee met to receive an update from the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS) on the establishment of iNesi and its revised business plan, as well as the adoption of outstanding minutes and the Department’s second quarter performance report.
The Minister introduced the discussion by explaining the important role that Information Communication Technology (ICT) played in ensuring that all South Africans had the opportunity to benefit from, and participate in, global economic opportunities through a national integrated (ICT) policy. He emphasised that ICT would become more inclusive, as prescribed in the goals of the National Development Plan (NDP 2030).
The Department presented the progress report on the establishment of iNeSi, explaining that the DTPS derived its mandate from the National ICT Integrated Policy (2016), the ICT White Paper, and the National Development Plan 2030.
The presentation highlighted issues covering the background on the mandate, ICT policy, the iNeSi model, budgets and timeframes, thematic areas, achievements to date and the way forward. (A copy of the presentation is attached).
Members commended the programme, but cautioned the Department that the ICT policy was contentious in its current form and that the private sector was unhappy with certain aspects. It was pointed out that the ICT sector was reflecting a drop in women’s representation. Members raised concern over the budget allocations and the concomitant monitoring and evaluation strategy, and sought clarity on how the Department would address the skills shortage in the country.
The meeting concluded that the way forward was to involve the State Law Advisor in the amendment of the draft Bill, to ensure that it was technically correct and legally sound.
Establishment of iKkamva National e-Skills Institute (iNeSi): Progress Report
Mr Siyabonga Cwele, Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS), said it was important that all South Africans should have the opportunity to benefit from, and participate in, global economic opportunities through a national integrated information communication technology (ICT) policy. By 2030, ICT would underpin the development of a dynamic and connected information society and a vibrant knowledge economy. The Minister emphasised that ICT would become more inclusive, as prescribed in the goals of the National Development Plan (NDP 2030).
Mr Robert Nkuna, Director General, DTPS, presented the progress report on the establishment of iNeSi. He explained that it was an integration of the three e-skills development-related components of the DTPS -- the National Electronic and Media Institute of South Africa(NEMISA), the e-Skills Institute(e-Si), and the Institute for Space and Software Applications (ISSA). The purpose of iNeSi was to act as a national catalytic collaborator, facilitator and change agent for delivering e-skills through scaling in the country. It aimed to achieve this by localisation, content provision and innovation.
The Director General defined e-Skills as “the ability to develop and use ICT to maximise the social and economic benefits of the information society and knowledge economy, and associated competencies that enable individuals to actively participate in a world in which ICT is a requirement for advancement in various sectors such as government, business, education and society in general.” He emphasised that there currently was a shortage of e-skills capacity in South Africa, which limited inclusive socio-economic development and the competitiveness of the country. Key interventions such as broadband opportunities would ensure a return on the digital infrastructure investment.
Mr Nkuna said the Department derived its mandate from the National ICT Integrated Policy (2016), the ICT White Paper which recognised the need for a new skills dispensation to drive heightened innovation in the sector, and the NDP 2030 which aimed at improving equitable access to enhanced ICT services.
The presentation highlighted the following issues:
- Background on the mandate;
- ICT policy;
- iNeSi model;
- Budgets and timeframes;
- Thematic areas;
- Achievements to date;
- The way forward;
Ms J Killian (ANC) asked how the Department aimed to address the challenges in the roll-out of broadband implementation. She also cautioned the Department against setting unrealistic targets and being informed by incorrect assumptions.
The Minister replied that the DTPS had experienced a number of operational issues including, but not limited to, the entire top executive structure. He reported that the board was now fully functional and expressed confidence in the new management team.
Mr E Siwela (ANC) wanted to know how the Department aimed to address the skills shortage in the country.
The Director General responded that progress had been made in terms of upper and lower skills training, although the bulk of the people who would be trained would be from the lower skills tier.
Ms M Shinn (DA) commended the programme, but cautioned the Department that the ICT policy was contentious in its current form and that she was aware of dissenting views from the private sector. She asked for clarity on how the Departments’ figures were verified, since they were significantly different from those in the Finance Minister’s budget. She also questioned why there had been a drop in the representation of women in the ICT sector.
Mr Nkuna replied that the budget was different to that of the Finance Minister, and the figures were estimates that would be adjusted to account for inflation and other cost drivers. He asserted that multi-stakeholder engagement had proved successful, except for some of the rural areas which had been hard to reach.
Ms D Tsotetsi (ANC) said that the timeframes were neither very clear nor realistic, in that they did not take parliamentary processes into account.
Ms N Ndongeni (ANC) asked if the Department had the capacity to implement monitoring and evaluation.
The Director General responded that the board and management team had identified monitoring and evaluation as an area that required additional focus, and a framework existed with available data which required implementation.
He concluded that the way forward was to involve the State Law Advisor in the amendment of the draft Bill to ensure that it was technically correct and legally sound.
Members concluded that the Department should consider having less ambitious goals, with due consideration of timeframes to ensure maximising outputs.
Adoption of second quarter performance report
The committee deliberated on the second quarterly report on the performance of the DTPS in meeting its strategic objectives for the period 2016/17. Ms Killian, seconded by Ms Ndongeni, moved the adoption of the report, with amendments.
Adoption of minutes
The Committee deliberated on the draft minutes of 28 February 2017. Mr Siwela, seconded by Mr C Mackenzie (DA), moved their adoption, with amendments.
The Committee deliberated on the draft minutes of 7 March 2017. Ms Killian, seconded by Ms Shinn, moved their adoption, with amendments.
The meeting was adjourned.
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