Zuma pays little attention to ICT

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South Africa is a better place to live than it was in 2014, says president Jacob Zuma.
South Africa is a better place to live than it was in 2014, says president Jacob Zuma.

President Jacob Zuma dedicated the bulk of this evening's State of the Nation address to the government's achievements, but also noted thousands of kilometres of fibre had been laid by both the state and the private sector, with more to come.

While Zuma said the 37 000km of fibre-optic cable that has been laid by the private and public sectors in the past five years will be "significantly expanded in the years ahead," he provided no concrete details as to how this would be done.

"This is not an occasion to present the programme of action for this financial year. That programme will be presented by the new government after the elections," said Zuma.

Last year, Zuma referred briefly to ICT, saying South Africa's broadband network would be expanded in a bid to reach universal penetration by 2020. Although he also referred to the thousands of kilometres of fibre that were laid during the last year, he did not elaborate on what plans the state had to meet its goal.

The World Bank has found that, for every 10% increase in broadband penetration, the economy gains 1.38%. Yet, despite Zuma's statement that the economy needs to grow faster, ICT as an enabler received scant attention this year.

Zuma did give a nod to SA's successes in science and technology. "The construction of the first telescope of the 64-dish forerunner to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), the MeerKAT, will be completed in the first quarter of 2014."

South Africa is co-hosting what will be the world's largest telescope along with eight other African countries, Australia and New Zealand. The SKA will probe the mysteries of the universe.

The State of the Nation address was widely expected to be an important moment as it comes just short of three months before national and provincial general elections, which this year mark two decades of democracy.

More to do

The address, at Parliament in Cape Town, was the last State of the Nation of the fourth democratic administration. During the address, Zuma focused on the democratic government's achievements but noted more must be done to create jobs.

"As a country we have scored many successes. South Africa is a much better place to live in now than it was before 1994. We continue to face challenges. But life will also continue to change for the better."

Zuma said government had created 3.7 million work opportunities in the past five years and has set the goal of another six million by 2019. Some 15 million South Africans now have jobs, the highest figure in SA's history.

Government is working on making it easier to do business in South Africa, said Zuma. He noted all stakeholders need to work together to help the economy grow at more than 5%, which is the rate needed to create the amount of jobs needed.

However, the country is going through a difficult period, with the rand weighing on government's infrastructure spending, said Zuma.

Because 2014 is an election year, it is expected there will be another State of the Nation address after the national and provincial election on 7 May. The address was made at a joint sitting of the two houses of Parliament: the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces.

*To see how the speech rated on social media, click here for BrandsEye's infographic.

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