Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Dr. Blade Nzimande, on Thursday launched the South African Mobile Devices Distributors and Repairs Association (SAMDDRA), a body that deals with matters associated to electronic communication devices.
SAMDDRA is a membership based organisation, which is poised to help both the department of science and innovation (DSI) and government in harnessing digital technology to stimulate the economic growth and create job opportunities for the youth and people living with disabilities.
The launch took place under the theme: “A Partnership for SMMEs Development and Growth from Manufacturing to Distribution and Usage of Electronic Communication Devices”. SAMDDRA will also serve a growing market of individual cell phone users in the country. In 2019 the Statistics South Africa estimated that there were about 1.5 mobile devices. In 2020 the statistics body further indicated that most internet access takes place through cell phones which translates into well over 80% of internet traffic.
Said Dr. Nzimande: “This information further confirms that there are lots of opportunities for SAMDDRA and its partners in this market segment. We have further introduced the concept of a National System of Innovation (NSI), which is our approach in managing our Science, Technology and Innovation.”
He called on the SAMDDRA to look at his department’s recently launched ‘National List of Occupations in High Demand (OIHD) in South Africa’ as a majority of the skills sets are in the ICT sector. “The list identified that 345 occupations are in high demand out of a total of 1 500 registered in our Organising Framework for Occupations. These occupations are at both high as well as intermediate skills levels”, said Nzimande.
He said the many of the occupations featured on the list match some of the key areas and sectors identified as crucial for the ‘Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan’. These include digital economy, energy, infrastructure development, manufacturing, tourism and agriculture, requiring data scientists, web developers, computer network technicians, electrical engineers, concentrated solar power process controllers, mechatronic technicians, toolmakers, gaming workers, crop produce analysts, agricultural scientists, among others.
Dr. Nzimande said when he launched the list he invited universities, TVET Colleges, ETAs and private education and training institutions as well as other training providers to use the list to, among others, inform their selection of programme offerings, their resource allocations and enrolment planning processes . In addition, he said, these can also be used to identify and develop new qualifications and programmes that are more responsive to the needs of the economy and society as a whole.
“It is therefore important that SAMDDRA establish a relationship with our Higher Education, Science and Innovation institutions and sector. This will ensure that SAMDDRA is in a better position to support its prospective membership to get practical skills, training, certification and accreditation of companies and SMMEs as outlined in its founding mission,” said minister Nzimande.
He said SAMDDRA can also help with the ‘Economic Reconstruction Recovery Plan’ particularly in the context of the country’s high youth unemployment. In the third quarter of 2020, Dr. Nzimande said, the figures stood at 61.3%, for the cohort of ages between 15 and 24 years old, and for those ‘not in employment, education and or training’ standing at 3.2 million.
“As government, we believe that Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) plays a key role in facilitating all the objectives of the NDP and those of our National Integrated ICT Policy White Paper, which further sets out how government will realise this potential,” said Dr. Nzimande.
He said as a direct response to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and its disruption effects, the DST has developed a new policy framework for science and technology which is contained in the new White Paper on Science and Technology and Innovation
Dr. Nzimande said he they are in the final stages of developing a Decadal Plan on STI to realise the objectives of the White Paper, which will serve as an initial ten-year implementation plan towards the year 2030.
“As a department we continue to work with our counterparts in all our spheres of government to achieve maximum convergence of all technologies – such as computing and information technology, telecommunications technology, audio and audio-visual content, the Internet of Things and more traditional means for communication such as postal deliveries – as we further gravitate towards the 4IR,” he said.
SAMDDRA can also consider, he added, supporting his department by providing laptops to students both at universities and colleges. He said they will be supplying, through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), approximately 69% of students with laptops and SAMDDRA could support students and universities by providing maintenance and parts services.
“I would like to persuade SAMDDRA to also seek relations with the Centre for Artificial Intelligence Research (CAIR) programme and the Data Science for Impact and Decision Enhancement (DSIDE) programme for capacity building. These are projects that we are funding as a DST to harness technological convergence and drive the advancement of the South African economy in response to the 4IR,” said minister Nzimande.
He said it is “crucial that we ensure that the nation’s future science, technology and innovation paradigm is intimately connected with the principles of promoting public good, equality and inclusion. This is the reason that our White Paper on Science and Innovation emphasise that digitisation remains an important component of our strategies moving forward”.
Said Dr. Nzimande: “Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, and data analytics are all very central in our White Paper. As a matter of fact, I would like to position our Department of Science and Innovation to play a leading role in data analytics, especially within government, but also interacting with other sectors of South African society.”
He said he “remain firmly committed to forging a dynamic relationship with the private sector companies, both generally and in specific sectors such as your Electronic Communication Devices Distribution and Repairs industry”.