Government has set itself an ambitious target of ensuring that 30% of the economy in South African and SADC (Southern African Development Community) will be digital.This is the word from Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, minister of communications and digital technologies, who adds that the target for 2040 is 70% of the economy transitioning to digital. She was speaking at the launch of Huawei’s LEAP programme for digital talent training.President Cyril Ramaphosa recently concluded the latest investment conference, and Ntshavheni points out that the largest investments have come from the ICT sector.

“My department is working on a framework for the digital economy in South African economy that will set definite timelines and targets for this.” She says.In addition, the recent spectrum auction raised R14,4-billion, much of which will be ploughed back into the sector, says Ntshavheni.Reinvesting in the industry is vital, she adds, because technology use in Africa is still 10 to 15 years behind the global west. “We we have to leapfrog ourselves.”Before Covid, we were planning for the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) and the skills that would be required for the future, Ntshavenhi points out.

“When Covid hit, the things we were planning for became instant reality.”But, while many companies and individuals were able to made the required shifts, we can’t wait for global crises to drive change, she adds. “We must be deliberate and intentional about leapfrogging our countries.”Among the initiatives being undertaken locally, as part of the spectrum auction, R17-billion was committed to connect schools and hospitals. By 2024, all public schools will be connected at high speed.Access to connectivity on its own doesn’t necessarily guarantee that people are online, Ntshavheni adds.

To this end, ZADNA (the South African Domain Name Authority) will ensure that all access to a portable email address.As well as investigating the provision of free data, the department is also working to set up 33 000 hotspots, mostly in rural areas, over the next three years.Ntshavheni also stressed the importance of regional and continental co-operation and joint development.