Wednesday, September 02, 2009

BPN 1369 WSA 09 Winners' Event Monterrey, Mex. (3)

On the first day, the deputy minister of Communications of South Africa launched the WSA Winners' Event with a speech summing up the background of the origin of WSA and augmenting this with the policy followed in South Africa.

THEME: Bridging Digital Divides and Narrowing Content Gaps: Strategies and Challenges.
PRESENTATION: Deputy Minister of Communications Dina Pule

Introductory remarks
It is an honour to be part of this august gathering hosted by a team of stakeholders in the beautiful city of Monterrey, Mexico. I also wish to thank the people of the Republic of Mexico for their warm hospitality.
This important World Summit Award Winners’ Conference, Exhibition and Gala, is in recognition of the outstanding achievements of those of you who are pursuit to create a more globally connected, interconnected, and e-Inclusive world.

Let me recall the World Summit on Information Society outcomes adopted by UN members Heads of States and governments, who committed us to the “achievement of internationally- agreed development goals, including those in the Millennium Declaration, the Monterrey Consensus and the Johannesburg Declaration and Plan of Implementation, by promoting the use of ICT-based products, networks, services and applications, and to help countries overcome the digital divide”.

The WSIS Geneva Plan of Action provides us with a framework for bridging the digital divide and outlines concrete plans to build “cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity and local content”.
It further calls on governments and stakeholders to “develop national policies that support the respect, preservation, promotion and enhancement of cultural heritage within the information society”.

The way forward for our citizens is to exploit the full potential of the internet, within the confines of our culturally, heritage and linguistic diversity across the world driven by mutual respect for each others culture and languages.

It is a formidable but achievable expectation that we could and would connect the majority of our citizens to the internet facility, which is also the goal of the Internet Governance Forum to endeavor to connect the next Billion of our world´s population.

Furthermore, we must empower our people to generate appropriate digital content and uploading it on cyberspace. Internet connectivity has the potential to unlock both the individual and collective inventiveness, creativity, and through storytelling, animation capabilities of our people in our respective countries.

To achieve this, we need to:
(1) Mobilize resources including funding for the production of content:
(2) Create greater international synergistic cooperation and collaboration, and
(3) Create conducive policy and legislative conditions in our countries for the development and diffusion of new technologies that reduces cost and increases access to ICT infrastructure and services to all.

Although the financial meltdown and global economic slowdown will limit us for a time to achieve our goals of a more inclusive information society, our indomitable individual and collective human spirit will outlive the crisis.

To implementing the WSIS commitments, South Africa has developed an Information Society and Development Plan (ISAD Plan), as our National e-Strategy, whose vision is to “establish an advanced Information Society in which information and ICTs tools are key drivers of economic and societal development”. This policy framework prioritises the development of ICT applications for e-Education, e-Content development, e-Health, e-SMMEs and e-Government services as key drivers for ICT for development.

Our strategies for the building of a people-centred, inclusive, and development-oriented information society, includes the following:
• ICT connectivity projects aimed at the construction of national backbone network infrastructure to connect public centres educational and health centres, libraries, national archives, and museums. The main goal is to provide ubiquitous access to a reliable infrastructure and services at affordable prices.
• Developing a national policy and programmes to digitise volumes of archived materials, including those in libraries, and Archives Centres.
• Development of a portal referred to as the “National Digital Repository on cultural and heritage content”. The aim of this initiative is to capture, preserve and disseminate South Africa's cultural heritage in a digital format. It is accessible on, the focus of the project is also to provide training and employment for the youth in the country.
• Building of a National Human Language Technology Centre which will host our programmes such as a multilingual telephone based system, automated language translation systems, and MS Word Spell checkers for 10 official languages.
• ICT support programme for the House of Traditional Leaders which includes website development and maintenance for the Houses of Traditional Leaders in eight (8) provinces as a means to provide platforms of communicating information.
• A Strategy to replicate the 2010 FIFA World Cup Johannesburg based-International Broadcasting, as Digital Content Production Hub in at least three provinces.
• We also have development and funding initiative by the Media Development and Diversity Agency to develop community based broadcasting services including television and radio.
• Lastly, the government funded Broadcast Programme Production supports local content production and programming.

Some of the Challenges we face in bridging the digital divide and narrowing the content gap, includes the following:
• Limited access to ICT Infrastructure to connect the majority of our people remains one of our key challenges, despite seemingly high mobile telephone penetration in Africa and other parts of the world.
• Law access to Internet and services for the majority of our people due to low broadband penetration. Internet remains the most effective communications platform, and for the production and dissemination of digital content.
• Funding requirement for content production remains very high and most countries do not have enough resources to executive content development and production projects.
In conclusion, our policies also aim to build participatory Creative Industries as a means of creating SMME opportunities and for the development of Art in the information age.

Blog Posting Number: 1369


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