Programme Director, Deputy Minister of Telecommunications, Ms Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams,
Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Dr Siyabonga Cwele,
Premier of the Eastern Cape, Mr Phumulo Masualle,
Executive Mayor of OR Tambo District Municipality, Cllr Nomakhosazana Meth,
Executive Mayor of Mhlontlo Local Municipality, Cllr Nompumelelo Dywili,
CEO of the Universal Service and Access Agency (USAASA), Mr Lumko Mtimde,
CEO of the National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa (Nemisa), Ms Mymoena Ismail,
Traditional and community leaders,
Leaders of industry,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for inviting me to attend the launch of this ground-breaking broadband and technology roll-out project.
This project is a development of great significance not only for the people of the Mhlontlo and King Sabata Dalindyebo municipalities, but for the country as a whole.
It marks a milestone in our effort to ensure access by all communities � both urban and rural � to broadband internet and information technology.
It marks a milestone in our national programme to connect the people of South Africa to the world � and, in doing so, to connect them to the future.
This is a priority for government because technology holds the key to economic freedom.
Technology provides us with a powerful tool in our struggle to overcome the legacy of apartheid dispossession and exploitation, to address our skills deficit, to create jobs and to eradicate poverty.
If we are to effectively deploy technology to advance growth and development then we need to ensure all our people have access to fast, reliable, affordable broadband.
Universal access to broadband is critical to inclusive economic growth.
Developments in technology have changed the world.
Technological advances continue to define and re-define the conditions under which humanity lives and works.
Today, the availability of information and communications technology determines the levels of efficiency in business and various other spheres of human endeavour.
Digital technologies are emerging as key enablers for social and economic development, particularly in developing countries.
South Africa’s inclusive development, our global competitiveness and the welfare of our people depend to a large measure on our ability to harness the power of information technology.
Countries that take advantage of the potential of this technology can create job opportunities, grow their economies and improve the overall quality of life of their people.
They can improve the functioning of towns and villages, enhancing their efficiency, and providing new ways in which problems of poverty, social deprivation and environment degradation can be addressed.
Information technology can break down barriers.
It can be used to overcome the obstacles that too often stand in the way of progress.
In an economy that has been dominated by large companies for many decades, information technology can help in opening up opportunities for small and medium enterprises.
Information technology allows small businesses to improve efficiency, reduce costs, increase flexibility and expand access to new markets.
Because of the immense potential that small business has to resolve the country’s developmental challenges, such as unemployment and inequality, it is critical that we ensure that such entrepreneurs can exploit the full benefit of technological innovation.
It is significant that this project � which is a pilot for a national roll-out programme � is situated in a largely rural part of the country.
Broadband has the potential to transform rural economies.
It has the ability to overcome many of the challenges of distance and isolation.
It can be immensely empowering.
Farmers are able to check the prices of the goods they produce almost anywhere in the world.
They are able to track weather patterns.
Broadband provides them with information, access and choice.
More than that, broadband creates the potential for the emergence of new industries in rural areas.
In many of the sectors of the economy that are undergoing rapid change as a result of the fourth industrial revolution, it is possible to provide services to global clients from almost anywhere, be it Mumbai, Mombasa, Munich or Mhlontlo.
Broadband provides opportunities to improve the provision of services to communities.
The broadband rollout will facilitate the delivery of many government services digitally.
It will facilitate the expansion of e-government.
It is no coincidence that broadband is being rolled-out first in schools and clinics.
E-health solutions will be available at all the clinics, improving both productivity and the quality of care.
We are only beginning to appreciate the massive potential of technology in improving the quality, affordability and outcomes of education.
With effective application, alongside a firm commitment to learning and teaching, information technology could trigger a skills revolution.
We must therefore welcome the work that USAASA and NEMISA will be undertaking to support this project through e-skills courses aimed at empowering learners and teachers for e-learning.
We are encouraged by the partnership with the Tsolo Agricultural and Rural Development Institute to roll-out computer literacy training for agricultural workers, students and community members.
These initiatives arise from an understanding that the skills of rural people need to be developed alongside provision of infrastructure.
They need to have the ability to exploit the many opportunities of broadband access.
It is significant that through this project, local sub-contractors have been used for installation of the network and will be used for further commercialisation and maintenance of the infrastructure beyond the launch.
We were impressed to learn that 15 SMMEs based in King Sabata Dalindyebo and Mhlontlo municipalities were trained and sub-contracted to install all the 609 sites.
We must use the success of this project � and the lessons learnt here � to advocate for the acceleration of the national broadband roll-out programme.
This is because South Africa needs to rapidly accelerate its broadband rollout to be able to be competitive in a difficult global environment and to be able to take advantage of the opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution.
The workplace of today will be fundamentally different from the workplace of tomorrow.
If we are to ensure that our youth are equipped to thrive in the workplace of tomorrow, we need to move with urgency and determination to provide them with the essential technological tools of the time.
A critical outcome of any digital transformation project is creating local impact, building local capacity through training, creating jobs opportunities.
Our communities are more than where we live and work.
They are where we create, where we build, where we exchange goods and information, where we encounter one another.
This community is alive to the tremendous opportunities presented by technology.
They understand that it is a worthy investment for future generations.
It is our shared responsibility to safeguard that investment and ensure that we realise its full potential.
We wish to thank all the partners involved in this project and salute them for their commitment to change the lives of our people.
Thanks to your efforts, the residents of Mhlontlo can look forward to a brighter future.
Thanks to your efforts, a new, connected South Africa is starting to take shape.
We are certain that it will make a profound difference in the lives of all our people.
I thank you.
Source: The Presidency Republic of South Africa