Broadband internet should be open to all, and is a fundamental part of moving South Africa’s economy forward, says finance minister Tito Mboweni.
Presenting to the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town on Thursday (5 September), Mboweni said that greater internet access will also help aid the country’s other major issues.
“We all know that economic growth, job creation and entrepreneurial activity is inextricably linked to broadband access,” he said.
“We, therefore, need to ensure that broadband access like healthcare and education is available to all.
“If we don’t overcome social, economic and spatial inequality in the provision of broadband we will simply perpetuate the economic exclusion of the majority of the people.”
Mboweni said that South Africa must also take advantage of the opportunities presented by technological change to enhance its competitiveness in the global landscape.
“The growth of mobile money systems on the continent is an example of just how much technology can broaden access to markets, connect companies and support the growth of start-ups and small businesses.
“We are entering an era in which many things are unknown. We need to prepare our young people for jobs that haven’t yet been created.”
Impact of automation
Mboweni also acknowledged that new technologies will bring challenges to South Africa – including job losses.
“We know that workforces in just about every industry will be impacted by automation, possibly resulting in downsizing and redundancies,” he said.
“According to McKinsey, up to 375 million workers globally may have to change their occupational category and acquire new skills by 2030.
“Employers will need to make substantial financial commitments to ongoing upskilling and reskilling in response to labour market needs.
Mboweni said that South Africa needs to also ensure that technology promotes greater equity and broader social and economic participation.
“Just as the Greek god Prometheus seized fire and gave it to man, let us harness technology for the sake of human progress.”