The Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Dr Siyanbonga Cwele, is re-inventing the wheel of governmentInformation Communications Technology (ICT) sector engagement by launching an ICT Consultative Forum on Friday.
An invitation to the sector’s stakeholders was issued by the Ministry last week. No mention is made of this event on the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services’ (DTPS) website, nor does it appear on the site’s calendar, which shows no events pending. The Minister made no mention of it when he presented the department’s Strategic and Annual Performance Plans in April 14.
As such I have written to the Minister to enquire why it is necessary to create another consultative body for ICT sector stakeholders, trades unions and government to aise his department on how to implement the vision of SA Connect, what the launch event cost and how the National ICT Forum will be financed.
I maintain that this forum is being held the week before his budget speech in a hasty effort to create the impression that Minister Cwele is being active in his portfolio and is a waste of time and money.
The launch of this forum flies in the face of the establishment a year ago of the National Broadband Aisory Council (NBAC) which, in terms of the much-praised SA Connect broadband strategy, aises the Minister on this strategy’s implementation.
NBAC comprises representatives from the private sector, government, trades unions and ICT analysts. It is chaired by CSIR president, Dr Sibusiso Sibisi, and the deputy is Professor Alison Gillwald, director of Research ICT Africa.
Minister Cwele has, since his appointment a year ago, never met with council, but has met with Dr Sibisi and Prof Gillwald. A report outlining the broad principles that should guide the rollout of broadband in South Africa was produced by the council and sent to the Minister in February 2015.
The invitation to Friday’s two-hour launch of the forum gives attendees a choice of one of four ‘chambers’ they wish to attend: Social, Economic, Governance and Security and ICTs and disability.
The forum springs from the ANC’s December 2012 policy conference held in Mangaung where a resolution called for its establishment.
SA Connect, the Cabinet-approved plan to develop and implement nationwide broadband ICT infrastructure to meet the electronic communications needs of citizens, business and the public sector, was launched in November 2013. The NBAC was established to aise the Minister on how to do this.
DTPS is busy preparing a White Paper from the extensive, nationwide, mutli-stakeholder ICT Policy Review that started in December 2012. The Green Paper was published for public comment in January 2014. Minister Cwele has promised the White Paper will be ready for public consultation before year end.
Minister Cwele would do well to spend his time, effort and taxpayers money on actually providing electronic communications for South Africans as per his mandate and not host forums that have unclear objectives.
Shadow Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services
Source : Democratic Alliance