President Jacob Zuma Source: blog.investide.co.za
Indeed, Zuma’s speech made no reference at all to the tech failures hidden within the National Treasury’s Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement, to name but one of the damning pieces of evidence demonstrating the government’s total lack of concern in forwarding the country’s tech sector.
The Policy Statement revealed that of a promised 17,322 jobs to be created within the tech sector in the 2012-2013 financial year, the Department of Communications (DoC) has created only 150. Of a projected seven percent growth in broadband penetration for the year, the DoC revealed zero had been achieved. No e-cooperatives were formed, no community radio stations, no ICT SMME hubs - despite promises on each of these areas.
Yet Zuma failed to make mention of any of these failures in his speech, despite highlighting the youth unemployment epidemic in the country. An unemployment problem dug even deeper by the government’s failure to actually create the 17,322 jobs it promised.
The State of the Nation address made no reference to the country’s digital migration, which is looking less-and-less likely to occur within the self-imposed deadline of December 2013. The DoC has itself admitted concerns over meeting the 2015 International Telecommunications Union (ITU) global deadline, given the legal battle caused by Minister Dina Pule’s unlawful exercise of powers outside of her official remit with respect to the control of set-top boxes.
The only reference to technology that Zuma managed to make was to reiterate that the country would enjoy 100 percent broadband penetration by 2020, a claim numerous industry players have spoken out to refute. They claim the only way this target will be met is if private entities help in rolling out mobile connections across rural areas.
As early as 2009, the World Bank published research which proved a direct link between a country’s broadband coverage and its economic growth. The government itself admits tech education in the country is insufficient, while tech sector industry players, spectators and reporters are warning that ICT targets will not be met.
So, why does President Zuma fail to make any coherent and realistic comment on a sector which is attracting significant external investment, has the potential to fuel the country’s economic development, and provides endless - currently unexploited - avenues of learning and employment to a country plagued by youth unemployment?
And most importantly, why does the President refuse to face up to the numerous unfulfilled promises that his Department of Communications has made to the people?