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Internet access no longer a luxury, says comms minister

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 17 May 2024
Communications and digital technologies minister Mondli Gungubele.
Communications and digital technologies minister Mondli Gungubele.

Government recognises the burning need to bridge the digital divide in the country, says communications minister Mondli Gungubele.

As a result, the state is committed to achieving wide-ranging internet access for all citizens, said Gungubele, speaking yesterday at the eighth instalment of Africa Tech Week.

His comments come as the globe marks World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD) today, under the theme “Digital innovation for sustainable development”.

The minister noted the country stands at a crucial juncture, recognising the potential in digital inclusion and government digitisation.

“Government is focused on securing and enhancing public access to connectivity by expanding the installation of WiFi hotspots, reducing data costs, emphasising digital skills training, and leveraging the ever-evolving technology and internet of things.

“In modern day South Africa, access to the internet is no longer regarded as a luxury. It is a necessity for economic and human development.

“The integrated new and emerging digital technologies in all areas of work, education, health, business, government processes as well as daily lives have demonstrated that the future of work is digital. These technologies deliver great benefits in achieving sustainable development.

“To date, digital transformation is gradually transforming the way citizens, governments and businesses interact and offer more opportunities for economic growth.”

WTISD has been celebrated annually on 17 May since 1969, marking the founding of the International Telecommunication Union and the signing of the first International Telegraph Convention in 1865.

It aims to raise awareness of the possibilities that the use of the internet and other ICT can bring to societies and economies, as well as ways to bridge the digital divide.

This year’s WTISD serves to explore how digital innovation can help connect everyone and unlock sustainable prosperity for all.

Also commemorating the day, Digital Council Africa points out that digital innovation holds the key to tackling some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Therefore, building a sustainable future demands innovative thinking and action in the digital world, it says.

“With 2.6 billion people still unconnected, glaring digital gaps hinder innovation across much of the world. Many countries lack the key policies, investments and digital skills needed to keep up in today’s fast-changing digital landscape.

“WTISD 2024 reminds us of the progress still to be made to ensure everyone can benefit from digital technologies. Let’s work together to bridge these gaps and build a more inclusive digital future.”