Comms minister bemoans govt’s lack of digital agility

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 27 Oct 2023
Communications and digital technologies minister Mondli Gungubele.
Communications and digital technologies minister Mondli Gungubele.

There needs to be a quick turnaround in terms of government’s agility in digital capabilities and opportunities, says communications minister Mondli Gungubele.

Gungubele was speaking on Newzroom Afrika today, on the occasion of the 2023 Digital and Future Skills National Conference, under way in East London, Eastern Cape.

The conference, hosted by the communications ministry, in partnership with NEMISA and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, is being held under the theme: “Realising the digital economy: Scaling up skills development to support innovation”.

The minister made the comment while unpacking some of the opportunities in the ICT industry.

He said the lack of agility within government stifles opportunities. “We want to open as many e-government platforms as possible and ensure they serve a purpose so that we improve utilisation. We [government] have a number of e-platforms…but we are not excited about the utilisation thereof.”

Gungubele said are ICT prospects in many areas, namely manufacturing, data analytical skills, software development and data science.

Unfortunately, South Africa has a deficit in skills for almost all these areas, he stated.

The country spends a lot of money to bring in highly-skilled human capital from outside its borders, he pointed out. “For example, a country like India produces about 500 000 engineers in IT. This means a lot of their software or IT equipment work is done within India.

“In the ever-evolving landscape of the digital economy, a comprehensive approach to digital skills development is not desirable, it is a must. While technical skills form the backbone of digital proficiency, they are a fundamental ingredient; we must also recognise that the digital world demands more than just technical know-how.

“Soft skills, such as critical thinking, communication, creativity and adaptability, are the linchpins of a truly effective digital workforce. These skills empower individuals not only to navigate the complexities of technology, but also collaborate, innovate, network and empathise.”

Gungubele noted government recognises it can’t address some of these challenges alone, so it requires the expertise of ICT industry stakeholders to make a difference in terms of scale and speed.

“We need to respond to the opportunities that the digital revolution presents to us because competitiveness is not going to wait for a child that is being developed now from grade one.

“We also need to reconfigure the syllabus to ensure that from cradle to the grave, our children are exposed to the digital world.”