Building a digital economy

Friday, June 18, 2021

The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies has embarked on a process to develop Data and Cloud Policy as one of the enablers of the digital economy.

Addressing the virtual colloquium on the Draft Data and Cloud Policy on Friday, Minister of Communication and Digital Technologies, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, emphasised the importance of building a digital economy, as it presents opportunities to create jobs.

“The digital economy is driven by digitalisation, which is the use of digital technologies and digitised data to impact how work gets done, transform how customers and companies engage and interact, and create new (digital) revenue streams.

“We believe data is the critical asset to set the digital economy in motion. We therefore did not decide to develop the Data and Cloud Policy to control and direct how it should be used, but rather as an enabler for social and economic development,” Ndabeni-Abrahams said.

With skills development being a critical intervention to enable economic participation and inclusion, the policy reinforces the issue of skills and capacity development at different levels, including government to create a digitally transformed society through the implementation of National Digital and Future Skills Strategy published by the department in 2020.

“As government, we also recognise the importance and availability of skills that exist outside State institutions, hence the policy proposal about the Data Advisory Council that will draw experts from government, private sector and academia, among others, to contribute towards certain aspects of data governance, including the development of standards relating to the management of data,” the Minister said.

Ndabeni-Abrahams said the digital economy evolves at a faster pace and has the potential to render many innovations that are obsolete within a short period.

“The policy asserts the role of the Department of Science and Innovation to lead South Africa Research and Development in collaboration with the department to accelerate inclusive economic growth, make the economy more competitive and improve people’s daily lives.

“The policy further, propose the establishment of a dedicated research and development capacity, which is critical for the development of human capital to derive value from data and cloud and the establishment of world standard and reliable cyber-infrastructure,” the Minister said.

She said the draft Data and Cloud Policy is also about reinforcing the acceleration of the rollout of digital infrastructure to reinforce a connected society.

“It is also about the storage and, processing and digitisation of government data to create access for citizens, emerging businesses, government and even the private sector.

“The government data referred to must be accessed data in useable form to innovate, develop digital products and services that improve the way we do business, interact with government and each other, support evidence-based policy-making and ultimately enhance service delivery by government,” the Minister said.

Furthermore, it is about creating a feasible environment for data sharing and interoperability to strengthen cooperation and collaboration among government departments and state-owned enterprises to satisfy the unlimited needs of government and citizens.

“The cooperation and collaboration is done through optimization of existing capacities and capabilities of other government and government institutions to create required capacity for data collection, storage and processing.

The draft policy also recognizes the need for data security and protection, hence its reinforcement of Cybersecurity protection of personal information, including the recommendation for review where necessary to support data protection and security and a data driven economy. It is about recognition of what already exists and implementing necessary enhancements to make it better,” she said.

The Minister clarified the issue of data localisation by stating that government has a responsibility to the security and sovereignty of the Republic.

“… As such, we unapologetically insist that Critical Information Infrastructure data (all ICT systems, data systems, databases, networks (including people, buildings, facilities and processes), that are fundamental to the effective operation of the Republic be stored within the borders of South Africa.

“Kindly also note that there is no intention to force the private sector to store their data in the High-Performance Computing Data Processing Centre. We are clearly indicating that government data will be stored there, while we strengthen and preserve the confidentiality and security of the stored data in a manner that will encourage other parties to store their data there,” the Minister said. –