ICT empowerment code gets green light

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Minister Siyabonga Cwele welcomed the introduction of the B-BBEE ICT council and sector code.
Minister Siyabonga Cwele welcomed the introduction of the B-BBEE ICT council and sector code.

ICT companies will now be required to comply with new generic codes set out in the amended broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) ICT Sector Code.

This follows the gazetting of the amended B-BBEE ICT Sector Code by Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) minister Rob Davies, this week.

In terms of the published Government Gazette, the growth and prosperity of SA's economy, particularly in the ICT sector, has not been realised to its full potential due to a lack of meaningful participation by the majority of black South Africans, including black women in the national economy.

This new ICT Sector Code therefore sets out to redress such disparities and promote the effective implementation of B-BBEE in the ICT landscape.

"The B-BBEE Act aims to address inequities resulting from the systematic exclusion of black people from meaningful participation in the economy. The amended ICT Sector Code aims to do this for the ICT sector," states the Government Gazette.

Transformation watchdogs

The B-BBEE ICT Sector Code has been described as the code of good practice that will be used by the ICT sector and shall remain in effect until it is amended.

In April, Davies issued a draft of the sector code and invited members of the public to comment. The minister said the sector code has unique features that intend to address transformation peculiarities that exist in the ICT sector.

This week's gazetting of the ICT sector code also resulted in the introduction of a B-BBEE ICT Sector Council, which was appointed in September 2015.

Trade and industry minister Rob Davies gazetted the amended B-BBEE ICT Sector Code this week.
Trade and industry minister Rob Davies gazetted the amended B-BBEE ICT Sector Code this week.

The Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS) stated the council is tasked with monitoring the transformation of the sector by facilitating the implementation of the empowerment sector code.

DTPS minister Siyabonga Cwele has welcomed the introduction of transformative steps in the form of the B-BBEE ICT Sector Council and sector code in the country's tech industry.

Transformation in SA is not negotiable but a necessity, he said in a statement. "It can no longer be ignored or postponed but is a responsibility for all if we are to avert a looming disaster of the widespread discontent of the marginalised majority."

According to Cwele, over the last 22 years, the ICT sector has introduced some of the most powerful modern tools for development, as well as the Internet and applications.

Sadly, technology has left scores of people in rural areas behind, mostly in developing countries. We can't afford to allow new digital divides to form because we won't be able to achieve a more inclusive digital society, he said.

"The launch of the B-BBEE ICT Sector Council marks another achievement that we are chalking up as we aggressively implement the National Development Plan.

"The council is tasked with broadening the meaningful participation of blacks, women, youth and people with disabilities in the ICT sector - not just as consumers but also as entrepreneurs and content producers. It also has to measure the progress we are making as a country towards an inclusive digital economy.

"The composition of the B-BBEE ICT Sector Council speaks to the goal of inclusivity and transformation."

Independent council

Although the council's reports will be processed through DTPS, it functions independently, said Cwele.

The council is made up of representatives from government, the regulator, ICT sector, women, youth and organised labour, and will measure the progress made by the ICT sector.

Since the establishment of the council last September, it has worked diligently with minister Davies to ensure the amended B-BBEE ICT Sector Code was gazetted for immediate implementation, said Cwele.

"The advantage of sector-specific code is that it brings regulatory certainty and enables the sector to maximise its transformative impact by focusing on opening up participation in the sector for designated groups that include women, youth and people with disabilities," he stated.

The ICT council has 16 councillors who represent different sectors. The members include chairperson Nokuzola Ehrens and deputy chairperson Andile Tlhoaele, as well as industry veteran Adrian Schofield.

The minister noted the council is committed to move away from narrow-based empowerment of ownership and management control to broader empowerment, minimising fronting, skills development, and skills and enterprise development.

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