ICT as an enabler for socio-economic development in South Africa

Marais, Deidre (2009-12)

Thesis (MBA (Business Management))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study aims to investigate the enabling role of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as a tool to develop the South African economy, taking into account the change in the economy from a primary to a secondary economy and tertiary economy. It also analyses the impact of apartheid on the social and economic conditions in South Africa (SA). The legacy of apartheid is still evident if we look at the underdevelopment of basic infrastructure in the rural areas. The report studies ICT development within seven provinces and reveals that major gaps exist in the development of the rural versus the urban areas. SA has come a long way fifteen years into democracy, having developed in various areas. However, structural challenges, race, gender and economic inequalities are problems that cannot be resolved in the short term but need long term planning to see desired results. The high poverty rate, inadequately skilled workforce and high unemployment rate in SA makes it difficult to convince local communities that there is a need for ICT. Introducing the internet in rural areas for example is also a major challenge due to the poor infrastructural development and the low penetration of fixed line telecommunication services. The generation of ICT infrastructure and access to this technology is a priority for the development of the South African economy. For SA to achieve their development goals, ICT infrastructure needs to be distributed equally. This is one of the goals of the South African government, more specifically of the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA). In order for the South African government to create a competitive ICT sector, changes to the regulations and framework strategies in the telecommunications sector was necessary. The Telecommunication Act of 1996 was extensively criticized because the Telkom monopoly was viewed as a major restraint to competition for ICT development. In 2001, the Telecommunication Act of 1996 was modified to address the inequity in the ICT sector and to make telecommunications more affordable. Furthermore, SA signed the World Trade Organization Telecommunication Agreement to liberalise trade by opening up the world market to competition. There exists a lack of clear national strategy in SA that includes the input of all the stakeholders such as Small, Medium and Micro-sized Enterprises (SMME), government departments, private sector etc. The Information Technology (IT) strategy should have timelines with clear guidelines on where the IT industry is going. There is also a need for the identification of focus areas where high growth and development are required. South Africa has the capacity to develop into an ICT leader, but for this to happen the culture must change from being dependent on innovations of developing countries to becoming independent. ICT will not necessarily alleviate poverty, but it is merely an accelerator to develop people by changing information into valuable knowledge to empower communities. Poverty does not only refer to the lack of basic needs like water, shelter and food, but it is also prevalent when people are: • Unable to access property and credit to do business. • Vulnerable and powerless in situations like crime, economic downturns and recessions. • Socially and economically excluded from society. The ICT Charter was developed to address issues such as employment equity, skills development and socio-economic development, as well as to clarify treatment of multinational enterprises. The charter is the Code of Good Practice for the ICT sector. The automation of work processes, machinery and the use of technology has further led to obsolete positions in the workplace. The change in the structure of the South African economy and the emergence of the digital economy has brought about fundamental economic changes. For SA to keep abreast with global developments it must embrace the transformational stages and exploit the market opportunities of the digital economy. The conditions for creating an environment that is conducive to socio-economic growth include investment in ICTs, policies, human resources and a clear IT strategy. These conditions form the pillars on which the framework of this research report is built.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie studie ondersoek die bemagtigingsrol van inligting- en kommunikasietegnologie (IKT) in die ontwikkeling van die Suid-Afrikaanse ekonomie. Die oorgang in die Suid-Afrikaanse ekonomie van ‘n primêre ekonomie na ‘n sekondêre en tersiêre ekonomie word in ag geneem, en die impak van apartheid op die sosio-ekonomiese omstandighede word geanaliseer. Die nalatenskap van apartheid is nog steeds sigbaar as ons kyk hoe onderontwikkel die basiese infrastruktuur in landelike gebiede is. Hierdie studie ontleed die ontwikkeling van IKT in sewe provinsies, en dit is duidelik dat daar groot verskille bestaan ten opsigte van IKT-ontwikkeling in landelike gebiede vergeleke met dié in stedelike gebiede. Die Suid-Afrikaanse demokrasie het in die afgelope vyftien jaar baie ontwikkel in verskeie areas. Die resultate van die planne wat geïmplementeer word ten opsigte van strukturele probleme, rasseverdeling en ekonomiese ongelykhede sal egter eers oor die langtermyn sigbaar wees. Die hoë armoedesyfer en die oorwegend onvoldoende geskoolde bevolking, tesame met die hoë persentasie werkloosheid in veral landelike gebiede, maak dit moeilik om hierdie gemeenskappe te oortuig dat daar ‘n behoefte aan IKT bestaan. Dis ook moeilik om tegnologie soos die internet in dié gebiede te vestig weens die agterstand in die ontwikkeling van die nodige infrastruktuur en die klein aantal telefoonlyne wat beskikbaar is. Die ontwikkeling van IKT en toegang daartoe is ’n voorvereiste vir die groei van die Suid-Afrikaanse ekonomie. Een van die vereistes om dit te bereik is die eweredige verspreiding van IKT-infrastruktuur. Die Suid-Afrikaanse regering, en meer spesifiek USAASA (Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa), stel dit gevolglik as een van hulle doelwitte. Die Suid-Afrikaanse regering het besef dat veranderinge aan die wetgewing rakende die telekommunikasiesektor nodig was om ’n mededingende IKT-sektor te vestig. Die Telekommunikasiewet van 1996 het wye kritiek ontlok, aangesien die monopolie van Telkom geïdentifiseer is as ’n struikelblok in die ontwikkeling van IKT. Die wet is in 2001 hersien, waartydens die ongelykhede in die IKT-sektor aangespreek is, om sodoende telekommunikasie meer bekostigbaar te maak. Suid-Afrika (SA) het ook die World Trade Organisation Telecommunication-ooreenkoms onderteken, wat blootstelling aan internasionale markte en wêreldwye kompetisie verseker. Daar bestaan tans geen duidelike nasionale IKT-strategie wat insette van al die rolspelers, soos Klein- en Medium-Sakeondernemings, regeringsdepartemente en die private sektor, bevat nie. So ’n strategie sal tydroosters met duidelike riglyne aan die IKT-bedryf moet verskaf. Die identifisering van fokusareas waar vinnige groei en ontwikkeling noodsaaklik is, is ’n prioriteit. Suid-Afrika het die vermoë om ’n leier op die gebied van IKT te word, maar die kultuur van afhankliheid van die ontwikkelende lande moet omgeswaai word na ’n kultuur van onafhanklikheid. IKT sal nie noodwendig armoede in SA direk verlig nie, maar dit sal sorg vir die sneller ontwikkeling van mense wanneer inligting getransformeer word na kennis waardeur gemeenskappe bemagtig kan word. Die definisie van armoede is nie beperk tot die gebrek aan basiese lewensmiddele soos water, voedsel en huisvesting nie, maar kom ook voor wanneer mense: • Nie toegang het tot eiendom en krediet om handel te dryf nie. • Weerloos is teen geweld, ekonomiese insinkings en resessies. • Sosiaal en ekonomies afgesny is van die breër samelewing. Die IKT Handves is ontwikkel om ongelykheid op die gebied van indiensneming, vaardigheidsontwikkeling en sosio-ekonomiese ontwikkeling aan te spreek, en om riglyne vir multinasionale projekte te verskaf. Hierdie ooreenkoms vorm ook die gedragskode van die IKT-bedryf. Outomatisering in die werkplek het gelei tot die afskaffing van talle poste. Strukturele veranderinge sowel as die ontwikkeling van die digitale ekonomie het die Suid-Afrikaanse ekonomie fundamenteel verander. SA moet hierdie transformasietydperk omarm en in pas met die wêreld bly, en in die proses leer om geleenthede in die digitale ekonomie ten volle te benut. Hierdie ondersoek kyk na die voorvereistes om ’n omgewing te skep waarin sosio-ekonomiese groei kan plaasvind, insluitend beleggings in IKT, menslike hulpbronne, beleidsraamwerke en ’n duidelike IKT-strategie. Die genoemde vorm die fondament waarop die raamwerk van hierdie navorsingstudie rus.

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