Telecoms

Black IT Forum proposes women-led ICT ministry

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The BITF says the DTPS, DOC and DST must merge to form a single ministry of ICT.
The BITF says the DTPS, DOC and DST must merge to form a single ministry of ICT.

The Black IT Forum (BITF) is calling for the consolidation of the ministries of telecommunications and postal services, communications, and science and technology to establish a single ICT-focused department.

In a letter addressed to president Cyril Ramaphosa, of which ITWeb has seen a copy, the BITF proposes the formation of the ministry of information, communication, technology, telecoms and science (ICTS).

The forum's pronouncements come as Ramaphosa has indicated a macro review of the ministries has begun. This after the State of the Nation Address, in which he said evaluation of the number and size of national government departments will be on the cards.

The proposal, which the BITF describes as a progressive advancement in regards to the ICT sector, is based on participation and engagement within the industry.

"Furthermore, we lobbied the ICT CEOs' meeting...where all agreed that there is a need for the ICT ministry. We believe the country agrees with us on this proposal," the association says in the letter.

"In addressing government agility, we must eliminate any delays in government processes of decision-making, which are caused by the regulator, policy-makers, innovators and executors of ICT who report to different ministries, resulting [in] legal intervention. In order to consolidate and contribute to the National Development Plan and your [Ramaphosa's] vision of downsizing the department, we leaders in the industry recommend the ICTS ministry."

Revolving ministers

Since the "new" DOC was established, it has welcomed four different ministers in five years.

Ministers Ayanda Dlodlo, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, Nomvula Mokonyane and former minister Faith Muthambi have had an opportunity to handle the affairs of the communications portfolio.

The old DOC was separated into the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS) and the "new" DOC by former president Jacob Zuma in May 2014. At the time, it was handed over to Muthambi, while Siyabonga Cwele took over as DTPS minister, a role he still occupies. They both replaced then communications minister Yunus Carrim.

When it was created, Zuma said the DOC would be responsible for overarching communication policy and strategy, information dissemination and publicity, as well as the branding of the country abroad.

The department exercises oversight over the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA), SABC, Film and Publication Board, Government Communication and Information System, Brand SA, and the Media Development and Diversity Agency.

Over the years, the department has gained a reputation for being dysfunctional and out of touch with the sector it is supposed to work with.

The BITF is of the view that the proposed ministry can better perform under female leadership.

This, says the association, will also motivate young women to participate in the mainstream economy through ICT.

It believes the ICTS ministry will ensure government keeps abreast of the "threats, strength, challenges, opportunity, weakness" as well as the "political, economic, legal, environmental and social impact" of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR).

Merger benefits

According to the BITF, there are three benefits to the proposed ministry: easing state budget constraints, consolidating and ensuring a cohesive approach to 4IR and the future, as well as boosting SA's ability to create a new market, resulting in more jobs to eradicate poverty.

The association further suggests the functions of the communications ministry should be split into two units.

For example, areas that are ICT-focused should be included in the ministry of ICTS. On the other hand, the unit that strictly deals with government communication must join the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) and it must be renamed as the ministry of public administration, enterprise and communication.

"This ministry will communicate on behalf of government and be responsible for any government-related activities." In regards to the merger that will form the public administration, public enterprise and communication department, the BITF also proposes it be led by women.

"However, we note the president has the sole power to appoint his Cabinet as enshrined in the SA Constitution. We further agree and second the sentiment of the minister of finance, Tito Mboweni, on the issue of merging ministries, hence our progressive proposal."

On the same page

Speaking to ITWeb earlier this year, Mokonyane appeared to support industry rhetoric that the DOC should not have been separated in the first place.

Mokonyane said once the ministry finds solutions to the key projects in its charge, a department that has strong oversight capacity on its entities should be created.

According to her, it would be easy to turn the department around, especially given it is efficient in terms of financial controls.

Responding to the EFF's Parliamentary question as to whether any discussions with the minister of the DPSA to consider the reintegration of the departments have taken place, Mokonyane reiterated the president's pronouncements.

"The DOC/DTPS merger will be subject to that process. Therefore, there is no need for the minister of communications and DPSA to meet until such a process is completed to guide all of us, lest we become pre-emptive. None of us know what the outcome of the process will be; hence we have not met."

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