The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) took the Committee through its 2023/24 Annual Performance Plan (APP) and Budget. The presentation covered: the 2019-2024 Apex Priorities, budget prioritisation framework towards 2023 priorities, gender-response, planning budgeting, monitoring, evaluation and auditing framework, and the 2023 SONA commitments.
Mr Buti Manamela, Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, was present.
The Committee had questions about the challenges and progress made on various projects the DSI was working on. It was concerned about the empowerment of rural and township areas in terms of connectivity, as those communities continued to suffer during loadshedding, where they struggled to access police services and the ambulance. The Committee wanted to know how the Department was intervening to lessen the impact of the recent Cholera outbreak. How were the African medical practitioners included and integrated into the research on epidemiology (especially given the recent global pandemic)?
The meeting agenda for the day was adopted.
Mr Buti Manamela, Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, requested to depart from the meeting early because he had urgent other matters to attend to.
The Chairperson granted his request to depart early and said that he understood how busy the Deputy Minister was.
Deputy Minister Manamela informed that the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) would take the Committee through the 2023/2024 Budget and Annual Performance Plan (APP). It would outline the priorities and mandate for the current year, and the commitments the President made at the State of the Nation Address (SONA). He then handed over to the DSI to give the presentation.
Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) 2023/24 Annual Performance Plan and Budget
Dr Phil Mjwara, Director-General (DG), DSI, took the Committee through the presentation. The presentation covered: the 2019-2024 Apex Priorities, budget prioritisation framework towards 2023 priorities, gender-response planning budgeting monitoring evaluation and auditing framework, and the 2023 SONA commitments; the DSI’s response to the global pandemic: Support and strengthen the country's local research, development and innovation capabilities to manufacture active pharmaceutical ingredients, vaccines, biopharmaceuticals, diagnostics and medical devices to address the disease burden while ensuring security of supply of essential therapeutics and prophylactics.
Planned policy initiatives/ targeted interventions:
The Department would be more deliberate in promoting the expansion of piloted solutions that enable and improve access to basic services such as waste and water management, housing, sanitation and energy provision and strengthen the capacity of the state in service delivery.
DSI 2020-2025 Strategic Plan:
Consisted of six strategic institutional outcomes and nineteen (19) associate outcome indicators against which the Department’s medium-term performance and results would be measured and evaluated.
The DSI 2023/24 APP marked the last year of implementation of the sixth Administration mandate and priorities expressed on the 2019-2024 apex priorities.
In implementing the DSI’s revised 2020-2025 Strategic Plan, the 2023/24 APP identified seventy-three (73) output performance indicators, and medium-term targets that the Department sook to achieve.
2023 SONA Commitments
Just Energy Transition and Skills Development in the Digital and Technology Sector.
See presentation attached for further details.
The Chairperson thanked the DSI for its presentation and called it, ‘the Department of hope for South Africa’. He stressed the importance of science and innovation research, the DSI added value to the country because of the problems which it solved. He opened the floor for questions and comments from the members.
Ms N Ndongeni (ANC, Eastern Cape) asked, regarding pages 36 and 90 of the APP; for the DSI to provide an update on the challenges and progress made whilst working alongside the Department of Tourism and the Northern Cape Provincial Government. What were the details of the appointed service providers in terms of expectations and responsibilities, and why could such not be fulfilled by one of the public partners? She asked the DSI to highlight an oversight method linked to the mentioned National Astro-tourism Strategy, and to say how the Committee could assist the DSI to achieve its intended outcomes. On page 38 of the APP, could the Department elaborate on the identified gaps in the DSI legislation and policy which were the potential cause for the underfunding? Could the DSI clarify who the ‘large private sector funded’ was? On page 38 of the APP, could the DSI list the potential risk factors which might cause the country to lose the mentioned advantages provided for by the Northern Cape? She asked them to highlight an oversight needed for the geographical advantage which the Committee might assist in achieving the intended outcome.
Ms S Luthuli (EFF, KZN) asked, regarding page 31 of the APP, how the Department was improving the spatial footprint of innovation to address rural and township exclusion? How were the public entities (which fell under the DSI) assisting in improving the spatial footprint of innovation to address rural and township exclusion? On page 8 of the APP, how was the DSI ensuring that the public understood and appreciated the work done in the previous financial year by highlighting achievement in each province? Could the DSI elaborate on the work done in the first month of 2023/2024 link in the National Science Engagement co-ordinating role? Could the DSI elaborate on its partnership with the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA) and non-traditional National System of Innovation (NSI) players?
Mr M Bara (DA, Gauteng) asked, regarding presentation slide 39, for the DSI to elaborate on the successes and challenges experienced when monitoring those entities during the experimental training. Related to the recent outbreak of Cholera, how was the Department intervening to lessen the impact of Cholera in different communities such as Tshwane?
Ms D Christians (DA, Northern Cape) asked about the plans to roll out infrastructure and connectivity to rural areas. In the Northern Cape, which was mostly rural and had vast open lands, there was a huge problem with reaching the police or the ambulance due to lack of connectivity (loadshedding), and that created a lot of issues for those communities. What was the DSI doing to mitigate that? What partnerships did it have with the South African Police Services (SAPS) and the Health Department which could aid in such situations?
The Chairperson asked about the impact of the global pandemic on African medicine practitioners and their participation. Could the DSI share what was concluded in that regard? Were those practitioners adding any value to research on epidemiology? When and how had the DSI been involving the said practitioners?
Responses from DSI
Mr Imraan Patel, Deputy Director-General: Research Development and Support, DSI, responded to the question on the Astro-tourism strategy. This was a joint project between DSI and the Department of Tourism. It required a lot of data and information of potential services which were needed to identify the potential facilities which could be used for the project.
The DSI would be happy to provide information on the costs, etc., that was valuable. The intention of the strategy was to use the facilities in the Northern Cape region, and other tourist regions in the country. That strategy was a medium-long term strategy. The DSI thought about how to make the country more attractive to tourists, and was happy to provide more feedback on that. It identified investments which it made strategies on. He said he had to engage a lot with local role-players.
Regarding the question around risk, what was very important there was the passing of legislation which protected the astronomy areas as geographic advantage areas. There were procedures which had to be followed with the Act. Mining, cellphone reception, all impacted the astronomy geographic advantage areas, but measures had been put in place there to mitigate that. The entity was adopting a very developmental approach to the challenges. It was working with other role-players on its risk register.
Regarding SAASTA, the entity made a major amendment last year to an Act to empower the SAASTA to play a larger role in terms of science engagement. The SAASTA was building capacity to do science engagement; that area was very important. The entity had the National Science Week, there were science centres, and the entity had traditional and non-traditional partners. Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) were set up by young people who were going out to mentor other young people.
The DSI put out a call asking where it could assist with providing funding support to assist with materials for workshops. In the upcoming years, the DSI would enhance its budget for science engagement to assist various persons. It wanted to accelerate the implementation of science engagement across all types of sectors.
On building capability for African traditional medicine, enablers were required. An active indigenous knowledge systems programme ensured the protection of indigenous knowledge(s). They were also engaging in training with the African medical practitioners, which was a vital principle of democracy, to give credence to prior learning.
Many efforts were made to ensure that the DSI reached out to all nine provinces regarding spatial footprints. It had initiatives such as the M-LAB facilities in the Northern Cape and Gauteng. It had recently set up ‘living labs’ which were in close contact with local players; those were spaces where young people could go in and try new technologies. There were research agencies which the DSI had which were community-based projects. That was all to ensure that science and technology reached as far as possible. Colleagues in Project 5 were working on a database system which would allow the Committee to get a picture of what existed, that was being developed in the current year.
Regarding the critical skills of TVET graduates, the DSI did not focus on general skills but on the areas which were defined as crucial skills and had identified capabilities through its internship programmes. An example was hydrogen in the fuel cell space. The entity had been deepening its partnership with higher education to be able to enhance its skills.
Dr Mjwara responded that the DSI needed to develop the Astro-strategy based on scientific astronomy facilities in the country, such as the big telescope in Sutherland. The International Council intended to increase the satellite dishes in the next seven or eight years, to increase them to about 100 dishes. The DSI wondered if it could take advantage of posting such facilities to link tourists who visit the country without interfering with the research being done.
The concept was like that of Maboneng and Krugersdorp, where people were permitted to visit the sites with fossils. The DSI approached the Department of Tourism and the provincial government who both agreed that that would be a good idea. A consultant was then appointed who advised how to proceed, including the benchmark costs. A proposition was made to establish a science visitors’ centre, which was complete, and funds were being raised.
Regarding the NSI underfunding, each year, a research and development study survey was conducted on how much money was spent by the universities. And the said studies have shown a decline in investment in the private sector’s contribution since the global pandemic. The DSI was trying to develop a strategy on how to re-engage the private sector, there was progress made in that regard. The DSI was concerned for the large companies that did not do research. The entity was hopeful of getting more private sector funding. It was successful in working with the private sector companies (and he proceeded to list said companies). There was investment in the private sector, but not enough, unfortunately. They also encouraged the government to continue with research and development tax incentives.
Regarding improving spatial footprint in rural areas, there were two main programmes over and above what was already mentioned. The DSI had a range of technology stations located in almost every province. It tried to create awareness for grassroots innovators and worked closely with municipalities to innovate within the provinces and municipal levels. The DSI was doing nothing regarding Cholera because it would only do research if there was an unknown strain of Cholera for which the treatment did not exist. The entity did not think it was necessary to intervene in the challenges.
The DSI was not under the mandate to roll out broadband for society in general, only for post-school education and training institutions. Institutions needed broadband to do work. The DSI was, however, working with the Department of Communication and Digital Technologies on how they could contribute to universal access to broadband. The communication satellite would enable communication anywhere, provided a device to pick up the signal. This would be vital in cases of emergencies.
Regarding the Chairperson’s question, the DSI had an indigenous knowledge system strategy which tried to develop indigenous knowledge as a knowledge system. The DSI was working with traditional leaders and houses to help identify knowledge holders in all provinces. Those who contributed to the knowledge creation would be respectively accredited for their contribution. At various universities, Bachelors' degrees were developed, and traditional African Medicines institutes were developed. Here they showcased knowledge and tried to look at ingredients responsible for treatment. During the global pandemic, the DSI reached out to the communities of traditional leaders’ knowledge holders and asked if any had ideas on how to treat the disease. Several came forward with their ideas. The DSI escalated those ideas for approval. The DSI was close to taking it to market. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) was supported through the biomanufacturing industry development centre.
The minutes of 10 May 2023 were considered and adopted, as were the minutes of 17 May 2023.
The meeting was adjourned.
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