Gauteng edges closer to creating hi-tech economic zone

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Gauteng premier David Makhura.
Gauteng premier David Makhura.

The Gauteng government is pressing ahead with plans to create a hi-tech special economic zone in the province, which it hopes will spur the province into the digital economy.

This is according to premier David Makhura, who gave his State of the Province Address yesterday outside Pretoria.

Makhura said the broader plan of making the province the Silicon Valley of Africa remains on track.

“This includes the integration of The Innovation Hub, our network of Ekasi labs, Tshimologong Precinct, universities and research institutes.”

According to Makhura, his government has also been engaging the private sector, especially ICT companies, on how to collaborate and share resources in the rollout of affordable broadband connectivity and free WiFi to poor households in Gauteng.

The Gauteng government believes investing in Internet connectivity will increase the province’s GDP by 1.5%, improve service delivery to citizens, create new industries, as well as provide new platforms for small businesses to integrate with the mainstream economy.

The province has since 2018 been developing a business case, feasibility study and business plan for the proposed Gauteng science and hi-tech special economic zone.

In his speech, Makhura said: “The work of creating the Gauteng innovation ecosystem in order to build a smart, innovation-driven and knowledge-based economy will be driven by the Premier’s Digital Transformation Advisory Panel, which will be unveiled in March this year.”

In addition, the premier said this will enable Gauteng to take full advantage of the opportunities “in the digital economy and prepare society for the future – schools and universities, the healthcare system, policing and crime prevention, governance, business and civil society operations”.

Moreover, Makhura said: “The ground-breaking work we are already doing with ICT companies to expand digital economy skills and link private sector innovation and skills academies with our public education system will build a solid base for a more innovation-driven and knowledge-based economy of the future.”

The premier explained that attracting investment into the Gauteng economy is a key priority of his ANC-led administration.

“This is one of the main focal areas of my job as the premier of Gauteng, the economic hub of our country.”

According to Makhura, rapid technological change and digital transformation is reshaping the way human beings live and work, “with major opportunities that must be enjoyed by all, instead of being the preserve of elites”.

Turning to the new smart city in Lanseria, Makhura thanked president Cyril Ramaphosa for his full endorsement of its development.

During his State of the Nation Address, Ramaphosa said this city, which he referred to as a truly post-Apartheid city, will have 350 000 to half-a-million people who will call it home in the next decade.

“This process is being led by the investment and infrastructure office in the Presidency, alongside the provincial governments of Gauteng and North-West, working together with the cities of Johannesburg, Tshwane and Madibeng.”

Makhura commented: “This generated unparalleled private sector support. We will build a new city stretching from Lanseria (Gauteng) to Haartebeespoort Dam (Madibeng, North-West), and this will take shape during this decade.”

Furthermore, the premier said the province’s new smart cities will not only be designed to be 5G-ready but will also set new standards in green infrastructure – converting waste to energy and setting up electricity micro-grids that “we expect to draw at least half its power from renewable sources”.

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