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SONA 2019: Government to introduce new tech subjects in schools

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SONA2019: President Ramaphosa reveals governments technology plans
South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa

On Thursday, 07 February, the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa delivered his second State of the Nation Address. During his speech, the president announced that the government will introduce new technology subjects in schools.

On the technology side of things, the president revealed a number of initiatives and programmes to fast track growth. He said that the government has made progress in a number of areas including digital and tech jobs such as coding and data analytics.

Ramaphosa disclosed the government’s intentions to introduce automation training in primary schools. The president expressed the need to address the digital skills shortage in the country. “Over the next six years, we will provide every school child in South Africa with digital workbooks and textbooks on a tablet device,” he said.

He added that the Robotic Process Automation revolution is underway and expressed concern about the lack of adequate digital skills.

“In line with our Framework for Skills for a Changing World, we are expanding the training of both educators and learners to respond to emerging technologies including the internet of things, robotics and artificial intelligence.”

“We will start with those schools that have been historically most disadvantaged and are located in the poorest communities, including multi-grade, multiphase, farm and rural schools. Already, 90 percent of textbooks in high enrolment subjects across all grades and all workbooks have been digitised,” he said.

Incubation Hubs
In a bid to accelerate small business growth in the country, Ramaphosa revealed plans to create digital hubs in townships to help develop tech businesses.

“Given the key role that small businesses play in stimulating economic activity and employment – and in advancing broad-based empowerment – we are focusing this year on significantly expanding our small business incubation programme,” he said.

The president revealed government’s plans to address infrastructure challenges.

“We will strengthen the technical capacity in government to ensure that projects move faster, building a pool of engineers, project managers, spatial planners and quantity surveyors – an action team that can make things happen faster on the ground,” he said.

“The telecommunications sector represents vast potential for boosting economic growth. The Minister of Communications will shortly be issuing policy direction to ICASA for the licensing of the high demand radio frequency spectrum,” said the president.

Satellite communication
Ramaphosa mentioned the successful construction of the MeerKAT telescope located in the Northern Cape. This telescope will enable astronomers to monitor the sky in unprecedented detail and survey the sky thousands of times faster than any system currently in existence.

The president said that this telescope will develop skills in areas such as space observation, advanced engineering and supercomputing.

“This is not merely about advancing human understanding of the origins of the universe – it is about responding to the challenges that face South Africans now and into the future and developing the technology and the capabilities that will build a dynamic and competitive economy that creates decent sustainable jobs,” he said.

Fourth Industrial Revolution Commission
Ramaphosa announced that he has established a Presidential Commission on the 4th Industrial Revolution which will serve as a national overarching advisory mechanism on digital transformation.

“It will identify and recommend policies, strategies and plans that will position South Africa as a global competitive player within the digital revolution space,” he said.

By Fundisiwe Maseko
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