PRETORIA– South Africa’s Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services has committed to train one million young people to be data scientists between 2019 and 2030.

We want to produce people with skills, people who have knowledge and can find solutions to the challenges we are facing. Ours is to build a knowledge-based society which is why we are training one million people, says Deputy Minister for Telecommunications and Postal Services Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.

Speaking at the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) here Thursday, she said the government is partnering with the information communication technology (ICT) industry in the initiative to train one million data scientists.

We have criss-crossed the country ….. we have also gone to Silicon Valley (in the United States) to learn crucial skills. We are in the process to make sure that we bring our own Silicon [Valley] here, to give South Africans an opportunity [to develop their skills]. In October, we will be meeting with the relevant stakeholders in the ICT field, she said.

She said government had a responsibility to provide people with skills which would ensure that they can participate meaningfully in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Last week, she signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to officially mark the department’s five-year partnership with the TechnoGirl Trust.

The MoU seeks to facilitate co-operation and co-ordination of the efforts in the area of ICT to promote and enhance the developmental needs and skills shortages of girl learners from rural and previously disadvantaged communities and to ensure their success as active participants in the economy of the country.

The Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services will provide support to 10 TechnoGirl beneficiaries on an annual basis, over a five-year period.

TechnoGirl is a flagship programme of the Department of Women, in partnership with United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Department of Basic Education, the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) and TechnoGirl Trust.

Ndabeni-Abrahams said South Africa will for the first time host the 2018 International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Telecom World conference in Durban from Sept 9 to 13, 2018. The conference will be hosted for the first time in Africa in order to increase the participation of other African countries, thereby increasing the possibilities of investment in ICT on the continent.

The Deputy Minister said the conference will be a gathering where Ministers of ICT throughout the world get together to discuss policies, regulations, spectrum and innovations.

As we talk about connecting people in our country, we also talking about our country being connected to the world. It is a gathering of sharing experiences, exposing the work that we are doing but most importantly trying to find each other in terms of the policy directives that must be issued, she said.

The conference is being hosted at a time when South Africa is implementing key national projects through the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services. These include the National e-Government Strategy focusing on digital transformation of government services and the National ICT Small, Medium and Micro-sized Enterprise (SMME) strategy which seek to unlock the potential of South African ICT Small, Medium and Micro-sized Enterprises (SMMEs) sector.