SA govt looks to develop data policy, drive 5G

Robert Nkuna, director-general in the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services.
Robert Nkuna, director-general in the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services.

The South African government is looking to develop a data policy in order to make sense of the vast amounts of information it generates.

So said Robert Nkuna, director-general in the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, speaking during the 18th annual Southern Africa Telecommunication Networks and Applications Conference (SATNAC) in Hermanus, Western Cape, this morning.

This year's conference is themed "The Data Tsunami: Enabled through software-defined transformation".

"We generate a lot of data as government; terabytes of data. We have a lot of data sets. Unfortunately, government has to make serious decisions with limited resources. We really need to know how to make decisions with the data; we must make decisions that are evidence-based," Nkuna said.

"When you look at government data, there are a lot of data sets that we are generating; data from the departments of health, home affairs, education and so forth. We need to start thinking about that data; how it will improve public policy and improve the economy of South Africa."

He pointed out that government needs to ensure the data sets at the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) are interoperable and make sense because data on its own is not enough to do what government needs to achieve.

"We need now to make some sense out of the different data sets that we have," Nkuna said. "Once we do so, we will be able to get what others call descriptive analytics, predictive analytics and prescriptive analytics in terms of the kinds of decisions that we make.

"We are going to start the process of developing a data policy for South Africa. That is going to be a very big task for us as government and we will be relying on the private sector to formulate this policy."

Government is also looking to accelerate 5G development in SA, said Nkuna. "We are going to the World Radio Conference in Egypt next year. The World Radio Conference is going to define and finalise 5G standards.

"We are asking the operators and the private sector to lead in developing 5G because government does not have the resources to do this. We are working with the industry to prepare for the World Radio Conference.

"After the conference, we see South Africa being one of the first countries to deploy 5G. We are starting to engage with ICASA in preparation of 5G."

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