Africa needs greater emphasis on innovation


South African ICT engineers, scientists, and entrepreneurs need to challenge the limits of technological innovation to enable all South Africans to positively benefit from the opportunities that social communications provide.

Obed Bapela, Deputy Minister of Communications in South Africa (image source: saitnews)

This is according to Obed Bapela, Deputy Minister of Communications in South Africa.

Bapela was addressing delegates today during the 14th Southern Africa Telecommunication Networks and Applications Conference (SATNAC) Conference held at the East London International Convention Centre, in East London, South Africa.

“Government is committed to supporting research, development and innovation initiatives in the Information Communications Technologies (ICT’s) and satellite sector, which aims to develop a strong base for an information society and knowledge economy,” says Bapela.

“We need to encourage innovation in content development that can address challenges of access to information such as e-government services and eHealth.


This year’s SATNAC theme is entitled Social Communications – Challenging the limits of Technology Innovation.

Bapela said- in order for the South African government to overcome technology challenges, it needs to invest in the new media age.

“Broadband infrastructure is an access enabler and with a 10% penetration this is not good for the country. We have begun a process of reviewing broadband policy and simultaneously developing an ICT plan to enable us to connect particularly villages and townships,” says Bapela.

Social communications

Bapela says more social communications applications need to be developed in order to begin to assist people to deal with daily challenges.

“We have not moved as a nation to adopt the use of technology in order to provide solutions,” says Bapela

“Facebook has about 750 million social communicators globally,” says Bapela.

“In April 2011, South African users reached 4 million, of which 33% are between the ages of 18 – 24 years.

“Mxit is the largest social network in South Africa with an estimated 19 million subscribers,” says Bapela.

Bapela stressed that Africa needs sufficient skills to develop local content and indigenous games.

Smarphone rise

Smartphones are on the rise in South Africa and has increased Internet access from 2,3 million in 2007 to 10 million plus users.

Bapela acknowledges that every innovation poses new technology threats including cybercrime.

“I have been assigned the portfolio of cyber-security and wish to invite your kind selves as specialists to assist us determine whether we should regulate applications such as BBM within the context of cyber security,” says Bapela.

Bapela praised Telkom for supporting centres of excellence in various African universities and urged other private sector companies to follow suit.

Bontle Moeng