Innovation centre to support ICT sector to create new products

Friday, June 30, 2023

As part of efforts to ensure citizens are digitally connected and participate in modern society, the opening of an innovation centre will benefit small businesses in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry to collaborate and create new products that will provide solutions to challenges experienced by ordinary South Africans.

Addressing the opening of Motheo Innovation Centre, Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies Mondli Gungubele said the centre can turn the tide to move towards creating sustainable and viable Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs), who churn out products and solutions that make a difference in the nation and in the lives of communities and individuals.

Located at the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) Centurion offices, the centre provides facilities needed by South African innovators and SMMEs in the ICT industry to collaborate, whilst also creating avenues for development - that works to create sustainable and entrepreneurial SMMEs.

“If we are to give our youth a constructive purpose to live for and thus stay away from all social ills that threaten to wipe away our future leaders, we must embrace technology. ICTs are a tool to fight the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality, increase entrepreneurship - and to change the socio-economic face of nations.

“SMMEs give countries the edge and play a crucial role in job creation, with over 70% of new employment, being expected to be created by this sector. As a department we are dedicated to ensuring that we create a policy environment in our country where innovation is not stifled but promoted and rewarded,” Gungubele said.

He said the SITA Software Innovation Centre can ensure that SMMEs are exposed and get comfortable with innovation and the life cycle of products and solutions development.

“With exposure comes more adoption and more innovation. Technology and innovation adoption - has its own unique complexity - but these ensure evolution in the technology space.

“This SITA Innovation Centre is crucial to rethink, learn, grow and become comfortable with doing things differently and embrace a dynamic culture that spurs on new avenues of progress, development, growth and evolution, in the ICT landscape.

“Initiatives like these are not only about leveraging innovation and skills, they also contribute to our dream of a better South Africa. It is a dream that relies on opportunity, access to resources, avenues that promote creativity and experiences that build our resilience and steadfastness to succeed,” the Minister said.

Leveraging digital solutions to empower citizens

Gungubele emphasised that in this era of technological advancements, it is imperative that South Africa embraces innovation and leverage digital solutions to empower the youth, women and SMMEs.

“One innovation we have as a department is the Digitech platform, which serves as an area for digital products developed by SMMEs in our country, and stands at the forefront of this transformative wave, presenting tremendous opportunities to promote locally developed digital products.

“By embracing this digital platform, we can fuel economic growth, particularly focusing on localisation, enhancing efficiency, and empowering the backbone of our economy, which is the SMME sector.

“SMMEs are the lifeblood of our economy, providing employment opportunities, driving innovation, and contributing to economic growth. However, these businesses often face numerous challenges, such as limited access to resources, market barriers, and bureaucratic hurdles,” the Minister said.

The platform serves as a catalyst to overcome these obstacles, empowering SMMEs to thrive and contribute even more significantly to the nation's prosperity.

“In order to complement the work of this Innovation Centre, the department working with SITA established the Digitech SMME platform, which provides an inclusive marketplace where SMMEs can showcase their products and services.

“This digital ecosystem connects these businesses with potential customers, both locally and globally, enabling them to expand their reach and increase their revenue, by facilitating seamless transactions. This platform opens up new opportunities and levels the playing field for SMMEs, regardless of their location or size,” Gungubele said.

In an effort to bridge the digital divide, government is set to reach 80% connectivity by 2024.

“To this end we will be providing WI-FI access to communities. By December this year, we will have connected 1 000 WI-FI hotspots and thus enabling connectivity to 200 000 households. Furthermore, we will connect 1 858 government offices and 1 200 schools.

“These are commitments made by the department and entities in the portfolio in our recent Strategic Planning Session earlier this week. The R1.3 billion to fund this project as announced in the 2023/24 Budget Vote Speech must go towards enabling a more digitally transformed and thus innovative society,” the Minister said. –