Comms ministry readies SA’s data, cloud policy

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The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT) will, in the not so distant future, release its data and cloud policy for public comment.

This was the word from communications and digital technologies minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, speaking during an online broadcast of the Better Africa Summit at AfricaCom 2020.

Ndabeni-Abrahams was sharing SA’s digital transformation vision and strategy to embrace a digital future, adding that the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) focuses on large sums of data.

This, she stated, is why one of the key recommendations noted in the now-gazetted 4IR report focuses on availing data for socio-economic impact in a protective and secure manner.

“To give effect to this recommendation, the department is in a process of gazetting a draft data and cloud policy in order to give guidelines to all those that are investing in the data centres and those that want access to the data that we are talking about.”

South Africa has seen a flurry of activity in the data centre market this year, with cloud providers launching their data centre facilities in the country.

Data centre service providers are also expecting an increase in data traffic as a result of more sub-marine communications cables coming to Africa.

Ndabeni-Abrahams said the COVID-19 pandemic confirmed government’s belief in data as a catalyst for digital transformation and economic growth through digital technologies and innovations.

She added this had informed government’s new data and cloud policy, which aimed to improve citizens’ access to data.

“The data policy has, as its foundations, the enablement of citizen access to data to encourage a new thinking in terms of the world of work.

“As the use of technology becomes more predominant, traditional means of doing work become obsolete, thus threatening to cause unprecedented levels of employment disruption. As we begin to push for policies that encourage innovation and the economic utilisation of data, we realise that we need to create an enabling policy environment for that.”

The minister said she hopes all South Africans will engage with the policy, not based on whether it is necessary or not, but how it can be leveraged to create and sustain a digital economy capable of competing globally.

Ndabeni-Abrahams also noted that COVID-19 superimposed new ways of looking at the universe and encouraged a new thinking about the world of work, engaging with fellow citizens, new ways of dealing with the workforce and communities in general.

“I have no doubt in my mind that the manner in which South Africa and the continent at large embraced the digital era has put us on a thoroughfare for seamless development of our region.

“Many countries on the continent and across the globe are now prioritising the development of digital strategies, agile policy and regulatory regimes that are key for the digital economy to thrive.”

Leo Chen, Huawei president for the Sub-Saharan Africa region, echoed the minister’s sentiment, pointing to the pandemic triggering a long-term shift in people’s behaviour to stay online.

“We recently saw new demands for work-from-home, online shopping and home schooling emerge, with data traffic soaring over 40% and digital services booming across the Sub-Saharan Africa region.

“We are grateful to see that African governments have responded quickly to the crisis by enhancing the role of ICT in the fight and recovery, whether through releasing temporary spectrum or policy recommendations,” said Chen.

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