Chairperson, hon members, distinguished guests, friends and family, I thank all of you for joining us for this very important debate. It is important because science and technology holds great opportunity and vast potential for our nation and our continent. I was thrilled that the theme of Parliament's focus for 2012 is "The knowledge economy and development opportunities". In line with your theme, we chose our theme for this year to be "Innovation for development and socioeconomic change". I had hoped to be able in this budget speech to inform members of the final decision regarding the site and location of the Square Kilometre Array. We do not have much that is new to report at this time. As members are aware, the bidding countries submitted all the required technical information and we are impatiently awaiting the outcome of what we hope will be a final site consideration meeting on 25 May. We repeat our conviction that Africa is ready to host the SKA and express our thanks and admiration to the SKA project team for their hard work. We also thank all those who supported South Africa and Africa's bid.
The work that we do gives effect to several key imperatives that will advance socioeconomic development in its many dimensions. We are taking action on the following: We intend to build robust institutions that are world-class in research achievement. We intend to create the human capital and employment opportunities that will excite our young people and give them a role in shaping a new, innovative society. We intend to establish and support a thriving small and medium-sized enterprise core that relies on innovators, research institutions and risk takers to create jobs, new products and new processes. We intend to strengthen productive links between the public sector research bodies, industry and the private sector. This is the vision that we hope to share with you today.
We pursue this vision in a context defined by three somewhat contradictory characteristics. First, we are fortunate to have very able, world-class researchers in a range of disciplines in our country. Of course, we need to expand the number of these researchers and to ensure that more women and black people play a full role in research and innovation. However, we have a great base on which to build.
Second, while in comparison to many developing and emerging economies we devote significant resources to research, development, and innovation, we are not allocating the resources necessary to ensure that our ambitious goals of growth and employment are achieved.
Third, as members are aware, our government has committed itself to building a strong research development community. However, this commitment is bedevilled by the absence of effective co-ordination and purposeful collaboration within government and in research-performing institutions. We must decisively address co-ordination and purposeful collaboration. Working in silos is destroying our potential.
We would like to set before you the steps that we would like to take to address some of the challenges and opportunities that we have identified. Before I do that, however, allow me to introduce to you some important young people who are in the public gallery this afternoon. In the public gallery we have Olga Mathebula, a BSc graduate in computer science from the University of Limpopo. She graduated in 2009 and has been unemployed since then. We have Precious Rabali, a BSc graduate in environmental sciences from the University of Venda, who graduated in 2010 and has been unemployed since then. We have Daisy Thononda, a BSc graduate in biodiversity and conservation biology from the University of Venda in 2009. She obtained an honours degree in 2010 and has been unemployed since graduation. [Interjections.] We have Phuti Meletla, a BSc graduate in agricultural management from the Tshwane University of Technology, who graduated in 2006 and has been unemployed since then. [Interjections.] We have Isaac Phiri - before you interrupt, hon member, listen - a BSc graduate in computer science and mathematics from the North West University. He graduated in 2008 and has been unemployed since then. Could those five young people stand up so that we can see them? Thank you very much. [Applause.]
These five young graduates, who have been seeking work since graduation, have become part of our first cohort of 50 interns who have been accepted into a year-long science and technology graduate internship programme, in partnership with the Da Vinci Institute and the Technology Top 100 companies. [Applause.] These companies have enthusiastically supported our initiative to give young graduates work experience and the opportunity to learn entrepreneurship skills from successful technology companies. I hope this programme will grow and offer increasing numbers of graduates the opportunity to acquire skills and experience. I am appalled at the talent that is going to waste in our country ... HON MEMBERS: Hear! hear!
... and remain convinced that increased attention to opportunities for young people will result in a more successful South Africa.
I would like to thank Prof Roy Marcus, one of the most enthusiastic of South African patriots who, with his team at the Da Vinci Institute, agreed to make our dream of technology and innovation interns a reality. We will spend a further R110 million in the next three years on the internship programme, drawing on the R9,5 billion economic competitiveness package announced in the February Budget by Minister Gordhan. We will allocate R15 million in 2012 and 2013 and expand this to R80 million in the 2014-15 financial year.
I would now like to report briefly on some of our actions with respect to the plans we announced in 2011. I undertook then to expand the SA National Research Network connections to all universities by December 2011. We have increased our Sanren links, but we have not yet connected all the universities we promised to connect. I have set aside R78 million this year to extend connections to rural sites, including the remaining six institutions of higher education. In the last financial year, we extended Sanren to 107 institutions. This includes our two major global scientific projects, the Southern African Large Telescope and the SKA pathfinder, the MeerKAT. I announced a commitment to expand the excellent SA Research Chairs Initiative by creating a further 62 chairs. I am excited that several Southern African Development Community countries have decided to also create a chairs programme and are working with us to build this brains trust in Southern Africa. The National Research Foundation did issue a call for 60 new chairs in 2011, as we promised, and I am pleased that several are being filled as we speak.
I am also excited to announce that our Swiss counterparts have agreed to partner with us in creating two joint SA-Swiss research chairs to give us the 62 that I promised to hon members in the debate last year. Thus South Africa will reach a total of 152 research chairs in this financial year. Also as we promised, the NRF established the additional post-doctoral fellowships, each worth R180 000 per annum, for three years from the year 2011-12.
I remain committed to creating a national body on science and technology policy. I had hoped to develop this structure last year, but agreed to await the final report of the Ministerial Review Committee on the Science, Technology and Innovation Landscape. I have received the final report and thank Prof Nongxa, Prof Wieland Gevers and all the committee members for their hard work. I also thank those who did much of the research and the writing. I shall shortly refer the report to Parliament, as well as publish it for public comment. In this financial year, we will finalise proposals for a co-ordinating body to assist government in achieving higher levels of success in research development and innovation.
We have extended the existence of the Astronomy Desk at the University of the Western Cape for three more years and appointed Prof Ramesh Bharuthram to head it. The primary role of this desk will be to assist us in creating a suitable entity to govern and manage the development of astronomy in South Africa.
I turn now to our plans for this financial year. The Department of Science and Technology receives R16,6 billion over the 2012 Medium-Term Expenditure Framework, of which R4,96 billion is for the 2012-13 financial year. Of the total budget for this financial year, R2,6 billion will be allocated to public entities. Of the remainder, R1,9 billion is allocated to DST- directed projects, which are implemented by public research bodies throughout the country. Close to R400 million will be provided for the running costs of the department. The allocations to the DST public entities rise from R2,6 billion this year to R2,9 billion between 2013-14 and 2014- 15. This is an average growth rate of 5% and is a welcome development indeed.
However, I must repeat my view that South Africa requires a significant increase in science and technology expenditure if we are to meet our national goals. We are alert to the economic crisis confronting all countries and economies, but it is vital to increase support for research and innovation if we are to retain the critical edge of an emerging world- class research destination.
I am pleased that, for the first time since 1994, we now have a "spending category" for science and technology in the Budget Review document. It sets out government's total financial commitment to all science and technology institutions. The proposed allocation is R10,7 billion in this financial year, which is just over 1% of national public expenditure. We hope that the inclusion of this category signals the beginning of action to give the DST the responsibility for administering the provision of resources to all research-performing institutions and supporting them to perform their research and innovation obligations.
I want hon members to understand that we are not saying we wish to assume control of science councils, but we want to ensure that we allocate resources to them and that they actually carry out research obligations and do not use those funds for activities that are extraneous to research development and innovation.
We are one of the emerging economies with a science and technology base that will allow us to increase benefits to our society. We need to draw on the example of successful emerging economies, such as China, Brazil, India and Argentina, and mirror them in our science and development investments. We will continue to invest in our science councils and our universities. We also intend to expand our investment in centres of excellence by adding six new centres of excellence to the eight that have been established since 2004.
We will also strengthen our technology localisation support programme as a strong contributor to our intention to build an industrial base that makes use of research and development. This localisation programme has continued its support to the 24 companies in the foundry sector that we referred to in 2011. We will be committing a further R45 million over the next three years to build on the successes we have achieved thus far.
We are very pleased to report that funding provided by Parliament for this work has attracted a further R96 million through a grant from the EU- supported Employment Creation Fund. We believe that this will assist us in significantly expanding the industrial and business opportunities in this particular localisation programme.
We are also building on work we have done in exploiting the potential of the fluorspar chemicals sector. We are implementing a very decisive fluorochemicals development programme, which targets human capital development, new business formation and novel processes and products. A multipurpose fluorination pilot plant has been completed and will be launched this year. We have an abundant fluorspar reserve and extremely excellent competence in the handling of fluorochemical processes and products. We want to convert this strategic advantage to industrial activity, business and job creation.
We have secured a commitment of R60 million for the period 2013-15 from the Economic Competitiveness Fund announced by Minister Gordhan in this year's Budget Speech. This will enable us to increase the number of companies we have on our localisation register by a further 50 companies by the end of this financial year and to grow this to 100 companies by the end of the 2014-15 financial year. You are supposed to clap at this point! [Applause.]
Hon members will recall the titanium initiatives that we referred to previously. Thus far, we have invested close to R108 million in this key initiative. Activities include the commercialisation of a novel process for the low-cost production of titanium powder. Researchers are now able to produce kilogram quantities of titanium powder. The next stage is to move to a 2kg/hour production of the powder. This will be achieved through the creation of a titanium powder pilot plant at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research campus in Pretoria.
Over the next three years, we will make over R100 million available for this titanium initiative, and we are pleased that R50 million of this will again come from the Economic Competitiveness Fund. If Treasury grants you such funding from the Economic Competitiveness Fund, it means your department is really good! [Applause.] We continue to support human capital development. All the initiatives we support have a robust postgraduate support programme. Our research chairs are a major initiative. In 2008, we spent R100 million on the research chairs programme. In 2012, we will spend R302 million. This is a prestigious programme that recognises and rewards excellence. We are keen to see it grow. I am further keen to establish chairs for science policy and science communication. I express the hope to the director-general that the DST and NRF will consider this in their future planning.
We are excited about the work that the SA Academy of Science is doing to increase on-line access to journals and to increase the visibility of South African research. The implementation of the Scientific Electronic Library On-line, or SciELO SA, an open-access platform for journals that are published in South Africa, has been a very, very important academic development. It allows free access to South African scholarly journals. We have 22 journals on the platform and the plan is to grow this to 180 South African journals on the open-line platform. Statistics show that the site is visited over 1 000 times a day, with over half the visits coming from outside Africa. The SA Journal of Science has had nearly 130 000 articles downloaded since May 2009.
The Assaf consensus studies have also proven to be very important evidence- based studies for policy makers. The recent Consensus Report on the Future of the Humanities in South Africa has signalled the need for action. I agree with Assaf that more should be done to support renewal in the humanities. I have asked the department to work with the National Research Foundation to develop new and responsive approaches.
However, I believe the greatest success and renewal will come from universities restoring the important intellectual status of the humanities in higher education to one of critical importance and not a sector of marginalisation. I hope the consensus study, as well as the Sitas Report of the Department of Higher Education and Training will be catalysts for the renewal of the humanities and that it will be academics, not government, leading the charge.
I also welcome the creation of the SA Young Academy of Sciences and look forward to working with the academy to create opportunities for young scientists to collaborate and strengthen their research opportunities.
I am very excited to announce that we are paying attention to the architecture for the performance of research in our country. We will be providing over R520 million for our national research facilities this year, as well as R125 million for science equipment. I also intend to direct the NRF to pay far greater attention to support for emerging researchers and for them to consider strategies for supporting women researchers more adequately.
Chairperson, I knew that my time would expire, but let me conclude by thanking my team in the department, as well as my colleague, the Deputy Minister, all the hon members and the chair of the portfolio committee, my family, the scientists and all the friends who support our work in the sector of science and technology. [Time expired.] [Applause.]
Chairperson, hon Minister and Deputy Minister of Science and Technology, hon Ministers and Deputy Ministers present, hon Members of Parliament and of my committee in particular, guests of Parliament, the director-general and his team, sons of the soil, flowers of the nation and people of integrity ... [Applause.] ... on 18 April 2012, the director- general of the Department of Science and Technology, Dr Phil Mjwara, briefed the Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology in the NA on the strategic plan and budget of his department. This was followed by a number of such briefings by entities of the department.
The briefing by the director-general mainly focused on strategic plans and principal goals, such as building a national system of innovation that has key priorities and recent outputs as its focus; current strategic challenges; monitoring and evaluation; gross expenditure on research and development; and the financial resources of the department.
The department's annual performance plans, as derived from its strategic plan, are mainly guided by the White Paper on Science and Technology; the 10-year Innovation Plan; and the National Research and Development Strategy, as approved by the Cabinet in 2002. The 10-year Innovation Plan of the department is at the heart of its Vision 2018 programme, in terms of which the SA economy is expected to be transformed into a knowledge-based economy.
As articulated in the Medium-Term Strategic Framework and the New Growth Path, the department has sought to directly address three of the 12 national priority outcomes, namely Outcome 2, which focuses on a long and healthy life for South Africans; Outcome 4, which focuses on decent employment through inclusive economic growth; and Outcome 5, which focuses on a skilled and capable workforce to support an inclusive growth path.
All of the above-mentioned national government priority outcomes have a direct bearing on the department's Vision 2018 programme. In the case of Outcome 4, for instance, the department is aiming at improving the country's global competitiveness rating. Currently, we are ranked 50 out of 142 countries. Second, the department is aiming to develop a strategy to increase the country's gross expenditure on research and development as a percentage of gross domestic product from plus-minus - I don't know for sure because it has been fluctuating - 0,8% to 1,5% by 2014.
The Minister has already presented the budget allocation of R4,9 billion and the way in which it has been distributed to the various programmes of the department. What is important for us to note is that in this allocation the department is clearly steering most of its activities towards creating an environment that is conducive to a knowledge-based economic future for our country.
Why a knowledge economy specifically? Well, let us remind ourselves that traditionally wealth is created by three factors, namely labour, land and capital. Even from the earliest period of economic industrialisation, technological innovation was deemed crucial to success. Although success was not built primarily on recourse to traditionally accepted forms of knowledge, it was built on learning from experimentation and reflection on practice.
In a nutshell, the economic role of knowledge was written about prominently long before the evolution of a knowledge economy achieved its prominence from the World Bank in September 1996. That was when the newly appointed president of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn, was looking for a big idea for his speech at the annual meeting of the World Bank at the International Monetary Fund that September. He needed a big idea to mark the radical shift in all the the bank's operations, which was part of his new reforms to the World Bank, and would mark his legacy. He decided to declare the World Bank "the knowledge bank". This led to the subsequent establishment of a high-level working group, chaired by the vice-president, Jean-Francois Rischard. The working group produced a report outlining a new knowledge strategy for the World Bank and recommending a series of research studies into the economics of information and knowledge. This was to become a reality soon, in 1998, through the World Bank's highest-profit annual document, titled Knowledge for Development. This document was subsequently filed in the bank as the World Bank 1998(a) Report.
To further mark the importance of knowledge in the economic development of a country, the World Science Forum, starting from 2003, declared that its events would have as their focus the theme "Knowledge and Society". At its 2005 event, it focused on "Knowledge, Ethics and Responsibility"; the 2007 event focused on "Invest in Knowledge to Invest in the Future"; and in 2009 it focused on "Knowledge and the Future".
The 2011 event - which I was fortunate enough to attend because they wanted South Africa to host the 2015 event, after Brazil in 2013 - focused on "The Changing Landscape of Science: Opportunities and Challenges". I think all these ideas are enshrined in the department's strategy for a knowledge economy.
The steering committee of the World Science Forum focused on the latter theme because they wanted presenters at this event to demonstrate how new global challenges created new scientific fields. They also wanted to see how new scientific powers would arise, such as was evident in the emergence of Brazil, Russia, India and China, or the Bric countries, and India, Brazil and South Africa, or the Ibsa countries, etc.
Based on the conceptualisation by the world's powerful institutions of the centrality of knowledge to sustainability, society, the future, ethics, the emergence of new nations as scientific powers and of new scientific fields, etc, there can be no doubt that in ushering the South African nation along this path of economic transformation, the Department of Science and Technology is motivated by a long-term vision and wisdom for our country, namely that it will come to the fore as one of the most powerful nations in the world.
The department believes that knowledge is like light. Weightless and intangible, it can easily travel around the world, enlightening the lives of people everywhere. There is therefore no reason that, in our day and age, billions of people out there should still be living in the darkness of poverty.
Well, after the department's presentation of its strategic plan, the portfolio committee was very pleased to welcome the department's progress towards a future knowledge economy. It also acknowledges the challenges that are faced by the department, especially in terms of funding. In fact, we did advise the department that we now had a tool in Parliament in terms of which we were able to assist should the situation be similar to "a cat lying on the stove". So, the committee here in Parliament can be approached to help institutions like the Technology Innovation Agency, or TIA, take off.
As was already reflected in the analysis of the DST budget, excellent allocations are being done to enhance not only the development processes of our SKA telescope in the Northern Cape region specifically, but also of radio astronomy on the African continent more generally.
In the 20th century, we discovered our place in the universe. Our telescopes revealed an expanding universe, with billions of galaxies filled with stars of all sizes and temperatures, along with black holes, neutron stars, planets and gas clouds. In the 21st century, we seek to understand the complete evolution of our universe and its constituents. The SKA telescope, the product of a new revolution in radio astronomy in the world, will make it possible and affordable to achieve the dream of understanding more about our universe. This project is expected to be built in 2024. South Africa is bidding against Australia to host it, following the identification of the suitability of the skies of the two competing countries by the international community.
The SKA is expected to push the frontiers of space observation beyond anything known since the birth of our universe. Already, one such innovation in technology, known as radio interferometry, has been awarded the Nobel Prize in physics. This is the type of technology that South Africa is planning to employ to connect with eight other countries on the African continent, as far afield as Ghana and Mauritius, once we are selected the bid winners against Australia. This should happen in two weeks' time, by the way. This is also the reason we are being favoured as the potential winner by the European Union, because we bring with us more countries from our economically fertile continent. This will result in so many economic spin-offs, both for the continent and the world. The SKA programme is a collaboration between institutions in 20 countries and will consist of an inner core and outer stations arranged in a long spiral pattern, extending to distances of up to 3 000km.
In Europe, and elsewhere, many so-called "SKA pathfinders" have already been developed, such as the Low Frequency Array in the Netherlands. Of course, in South Africa, we already have the Karoo Array Telescope, or KAT7, in the Northern Cape. On my way to the Netherlands, I read that those dishes have already started to detect neutral hydrogen, which is the birth of life, in one of the distant galaxies.
What will the SKA contribute as transformational science? It will address a number of fundamental questions in astrophysics, in fundamental physics, cosmology, particle physics and astrology. [Applause.] It is expected to address a number of key physics projects such as the first black holes and stars, the cradle of life, cosmology and dark energy.
Scientists believe that 400 million years after the Big Bang, or the birth of our universe, the first radiating objects - for example, stars and mini quasars - were formed. Due to their strong radiation, the surrounding neutral hydrogen gas was not only heated, but also ionised. Six million years later, this pervasive gas was transformed from a fully neutral to a fully ionised state - hence the change from the dark ages to our light planet. This pivotal period in the history of the universe is known as the epoch of re-ionisation. It holds the key to our understanding of structure formation and evolution and represents a missing piece of the puzzle in our knowledge of the universe.
The SKA telescope will be able to probe back in time into the epoch of re- ionisation. It is believed that the 21cm radiation line emitted by neutral hydrogen during the epoch of re-ionisation would be detected by the SKA telescope and then we will understand the essence of life in the stars.
Furthermore, observations with the SKA telescope will contribute to a wide range of astro-biological goals, such as finding out whether there are other earth-like planets orbiting stars other than the sun. Today, scientists know that the gas from which stars are formed contains surprisingly complex organic molecules, implying some form of existence on those stars.
The benefits of the SKA telescope are far-reaching and wide. We will benefit from SKA engineering and SKA computing. Beyond science, there will be benefits such as human capital development, employment, technology development and so on. At this juncture, I think everybody has heard what the SKA is bringing us. I therefore beg for the support of the department's project on the knowledge economy. [Applause.]
Chairperson, it is a privilege to speak in this debate. I will use the opportunity to emphasise the importance of the role of science and technology in directing South Africa onto a growth trajectory. In the absence of job-creating and poverty-alleviating growth, the history books will not look favourably upon us. The DA's 8% growth project is a contribution to this end.
In his book Future Shock, Alvin Toffler wrote: "Nothing should be included in a required curriculum unless it can be strongly justified in terms of the future." A strong focus on the creation of human capital is the password to a better future for all South Africans, and the knowledge economy should be one of the main indicators of the curriculum taught in our educational and training institutions.
Gary Becker, a well-known economist, remarked:
Ours is the age of human capital, in the sense that human capital is by far the most important form of capital in modern economies. Technology may be the driver of a modern economy but human capital is certainly the fuel. The modern economic environment places more of a premium on education, training and other sources of knowledge than was true even fifty years ago.
Becker also notes that in recent history, almost without exception, developing nations with more educated and healthier populations managed to grow faster than average. Especially important for South Africa, then, are our investments in elementary and secondary education. Sporadic curriculum changes, combined with abject failure in literacy and numeracy, do not bode well. Without a well-educated population, investments in science and technology cannot be optimally harnessed.
We cannot disagree with Prof Raphael de Kadt's recent statement: "The Achilles heel of South Africa's future economic and political prosperity has been our limited high-quality human capital formation." Investment in human capital stimulates technology innovations and the high-tech sector. The high-tech sector is where South Africa has to move if it is to achieve the kind of growth necessary to provide jobs and alleviate poverty. But a move to the high-tech sector cannot occur out of the ether. It must be accompanied by concomitant investment in improving educational outcomes, especially those in maths and science.
Achieving 8% growth is not possible without intentionally creating a flourishing knowledge economy. The DA's alternative budget this year recommends a total budgetary allocation of R450 million towards establishing specialist maths and science schools with bursaries for disadvantaged learners, based on the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, centres that we have in the Western Cape. These centres will produce the scientists, engineers and financial professionals that our country needs.
So, where are we on the road to designing a robust, opportunity-laden knowledge economy for all? Regarding research, we are pleased at the news that 60 new research chairs will be awarded to various institutions of higher learning across South Africa. While this news is heartening, strong remarks from the academic community of late have warned that the emphasis on research chairs may be at the expense of broader research. In a recent article, Prof Nicola Illing wrote:
This year started with some researchers at academic institutions in South Africa scrambling to find funds to support the research programmes and graduate students. The applications for research funding, under the competitive funding schemes of the National Research Foundation, had been turned down, despite favourable referee reports on the quality of the proposed science, because of budget limitations. The shift in the funding priorities of the department and the NRF over the last five years is leaving researchers in specific disciplines, as well as their graduates, high and dry.
Minister, u is van mening dat al die navorsingsrade onder die jurisdiksie van u departement geplaas behoort te word. U het vanmiddag verdere definisie daaraan gegee en daarop gewys dat daar 'n mate van ondersteuning en beheer sal wees. Tydens haar begrotingstoespraak verlede jaar het my voorganger, agb Marian Shinn, u daarmee gelyk gegee en aangetoon dat die DA u ondersteun. Ons weet die probleme van die landbou en mediese navorsingsrade is nie net finansiel van aard nie.
Maar Minister, daar is 'n ander, baie groot navorsingsleemte. Onderwys in Suid-Afrika staar 'n legio probleme in die gesig en ons verneem gereeld van onderwysministers van inisiatiewe wat geloods word om talle uitdagings die hoof te bied.
Die diagnostiese verslag van die Nasionale Beplanningskommissie sonder 'n standaardverhoging van onderwys en die noodsaaklikheid van 'n kennisekonomie uit as twee van die nege sentrale uitdagings waarvoor ons land te staan kom. Die spilpunt waarom 'n onderwysstelsel draai, is die kurrikulum wat in sy onderwys- en opleidingsinstellings aangebied word. Vir die afgelope 18 jaar is ons onderwysstelsel gereeld aan eksperimente onderwerp, wat tot die verlaging van standaarde gelei het ... [Tussenwerpsels.] ... en Onderwysministers telkens tot krisisbestuur genoop het. [Tussenwerpsels.] Ek kom nou by my punt, agb lid. [Tussenwerpsels.]
Kurrikulums is gedurig deur deeltydse taakspanne aangepas, sonder algehele sukses. [Tussenwerpsels.] 'n Probeer-en-tref benadering deug nie. Kurrikulumontwikkeling is 'n wetenskap op sigself en behoort in ooreenstemming met wetenskaplike beginsels te geskied.
Die daarstelling van 'n permanente kurrikulumnavorsingsraad is die vanselfsprekende rigting om in te slaan. Noem dit dan nou maar 'n onderwysnavorsingsraad. So 'n instelling behoort die kurrikulum op 'n kontinue grondslag te ontwikkel deur navorsing te doen oor watter eise die samelewing, veral met betrekking tot die toekoms, aan die kurrikulum stel. Verder behoort so 'n raad die kurrikulum, in ooreenstemming met sodanige eise, te ontwerp, uit te toets, gedurig te verbeter en intiem by die implementering daarvan betrokke te wees.
Sedert my voorstel in 2009 - dat 'n kurrikulumnavorsingseenheid 'n noodsaaklikheid geword het - het die Departement van Basiese Onderwys in 2010 die vestiging van die Nasionale Kurrikulum Instituut aangekondig - 'n stap in die regte rigting, maar nie omvangryk genoeg nie. Ons het in die afgelope twee jaar niks daarvan verneem nie. Dr Nick Taylor, tans hoof van die National Education Evaluation and Development Unit, het destyds gemeen my voorstel oor kurrikulumontwerp fokus nie op die werklike probleem nie. Volgens hom was kurrikulumimplementering die groot probleem in onderwys. Hy het my verkeerd verstaan. Albei is stappe in dieselfde deurlopende proses, wat onder leiding van 'n permanente span kurrikulumwetenskaplikes behoort te verloop. By my latere besef dat ons onderwysdepartemente nie oor die nodige navorsingsvermons beskik nie, het ek met hom saamgestem - en ek haal hom aan: (Translation of Afrikaans paragraphs follows.)
[Minister, you are of the opinion that all the research councils should be placed under the department's jurisdiction. This afternoon you further defined your position regarding this and pointed out that there will be a measure of support and control. During her budget speech last year, my predecessor, hon Marian Shinn, agreed with you and indicated that the DA supports you. We know the problems regarding agriculture and medical research councils are not only of a financial nature.
But Minister, there is another very big shortcoming regarding research. Education in South Africa faces a legion of problems and we regularly hear from education deputy ministers about initiatives that are being launched to tackle numerous challenges.
The diagnostic report of the National Planning Commission emphasised the improvement of the standard of education and the importance of a knowledge economy as two of the nine central challenges our country is faced with. The axis on which an education system rotates is the curriculum that is offered at its education and training institutions. For the past 18 years our education system was regularly subjected to experiments that led to the lowering of standards ... [Interjections.] and Education Ministers were obliged to do crisis management. [Interjections.] I am getting to the point I want to make, hon member. [Interjections.]
Curriculums were constantly adjusted by part-time task teams, without achieving total success. [Interjections.] A try-and-see approach does not succeed. Curriculum development is a science in itself and needs to take place in accordance with scientific principles.
The establishment of a permanent curriculum research council is the obvious direction to take. Let's call it an education research council. Such an institution has to develop the curriculum on a continuous basis by researching what demands society, especially regarding the future, is making on the curriculum. Such a council should further, in accordance with such demands, design, test and constantly improve on the curriculum and be closely involved in the implementation of it.
Since my proposal in 2009 - that a curriculum research unit is a necessity - the Department of Basic Education announced in 2010 the establishment of the National Curriculum Institute - a step in the right direction, but not comprehensive enough. We have heard nothing about it in the past two years.
At that time Dr Nick Taylor, who is currently the head of the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit, thought my proposal regarding curriculum development did not focus on the real problem. According to him curriculum implementation was the big problem in education. He misunderstood me. Both are steps of the same continuing process that has to take place under the lead of a permanent team of curriculum scientists. When I later realised that our education departments do not have the necessary research capacity, I agreed with him - and I quote him:]
A national curriculum unit should not be housed within the Department of Basic Education. The department's record on research is not good. To really have objective research done on implementation, you need an arm's- length relationship.
Minister, u departement behoort betrokke te raak by hierdie gesprek. U is bewus daarvan dat wetenskap en tegnologie voorheen onder die Departement van Nasionale Opvoeding ressorteer het. Verlede maand, tydens voorbereidende dialoogvoering in die Parlement met die oog op die Wreldberaad oor Volhoubare Ontwikkeling later vanjaar in Rio de Janeiro, het een van die vraagstellers, n Prof Mark Swilling se aanbieding oor die noodsaaklikheid van 'n groen ekonomie, opgemerk dat ons skoolkurrikulum sekerlik verantwoordelik behoort te wees vir die grondwerk daarvoor. Dit onderstreep wat ek bepleit. As ons 'n kennisekonomie en menslike kapitaal wil nastreef, moet dit by die skoolkurrikulum begin. (Translation of Afrikaans paragraph follows.)
[Minister, your department should become involved in this debate. You are aware of the fact that science and technology previously resorted under the Department of National Education. Last month, during preparatory dialogues in Parliament with a view to the World Conference on Sustainable Development later this year in Rio de Janeiro, one of the people who posed a question after Prof Mark Swilling's presentation on the importance of a green economy remarked that our school curriculum certainly had to be responsible for the groundwork of it. It emphasises what I am advocating. If we are to strive towards a knowledge economy and human capital, it has to start with the school curriculum.]
What I have suggested about the curriculum is summarised by Toffler in one short sentence: "Education must shift into the future tense." The only vehicle to take us into a prosperous future is a proper, scientific approach to the whole process of curriculum development by a capable department with a competence in research.
On 4 April, South Africa yearned to win the Square Kilometre Array bid to exemplify the African dream. It would have marked a bold entrance into the African century. The awarding of the world's biggest-ever scientific project to Africa would reverse the trajectory of dead aid and signal a new era of cutting-edge investment that would incisively build our knowledge economy. However, the announcement has now been delayed, partly thanks to Australia's backhandedness. Shamelessly, they painted our bid as a developmental one, accusing us of drawing on Western guilt and sympathy. No matter, we will remind them of the famous 438 cricket match ... [Laughter.] ... in which the world gave us no hope of chasing down the Aussie total. [Applause.] We won on merit then, and we believe that we will win on merit now. [Interjections.] [Applause.]
If South Africa eventually wins the bid, it will be on the back of demonstrated competence alone. We have stunned the world with our scientific capacity, as the site evaluation by the world's foremost independent experts has verified. Inevitable delays create unnecessary uncertainty. So, we empathise with the Minister and her team that the announcement has been delayed.
Agb Minister, ek vertrou dat u die integriteit van die SKA terrein en omgewing met al die mag waaroor u, kragtens die Astronomy Geographic Advantage Act beskik, sal beskerm. Ek versoek u ook om die belange van die gemeenskappe wat deur die teleskope geraak word, op u hart te dra en u daartoe te beywer dat hul persoonlike, maatskaplike en ekonomiese omstandighede beskerm word. In watter mate is u departement daarby betrokke, of gaan die gemeenskapsforums aan die genade van die SKA organisasie oorgelaat word?
Na my onlangse besoek aan die SKA terrein, is dit vir my duidelik dat mense mislei en uitgesluit voel. Hul ervaring is dat hul lewensbestaan en behoeftes gering geskat word. U weet dat ek hier van die mense van die hele Noord-Kaap praat, slegs met uitsluiting van die Sol Plaatje metropool. Hulle is nie maar net, en ek haal aan, "a few people with a few sheep living there", soos een van die SKA leiersfigure na hulle verwys het nie.
Ek het sederdien verskeie briewe van besorgde persone ontvang. Een skryf, en ek haal hom aan:
Die gemeenskap rondom die SKA terrein is trotse Suid-Afrikaners wat die SKA bod ten volle ondersteun. Hulle wil 'n positiewe bydra maak om oplossings vir probleme rakende die projek te vind, ten einde die Suid- Afrikaanse bod te versterk en te laat slaag. Tog ervaar die gemeenskap dat die negatiewe impak van die projek op hul lewens nie vir die departement belangrik is nie. Dit wil voorkom asof die departement hierdie landsburgers se grondwetlike regte minder belangrik ag as om die SKA bod vir Suid-Afrika te wen.
Besware sluit onder meer in dat sekere bepalings van die Astronomy Geographic Advantage Act en die Promotion of Administrative Justice Act wette nie nagekom word nie; dat konsultasieprosesse gebrekkig is; dat beloftes gerepudieer word; dat gemeenskapsforums onder leiding van die SKA organisasie nie die regering se voorligtingsrol behoort te vervul nie; dat die uitslag van 'n omgewingsimpakstudie nie aan die gemeenskap bekendgemaak is nie; dat geen ondersoek gedoen is om die impak op die inwoners se lewens te bepaal nie; en dat die waarde van eiendomme ongetwyfeld negatief aangetas word.
Minister, die hoop word uitgespreek dat u amptenare in u departement, met 'n voldoende begroting, beskikbaar sal stel om na behore in te gryp. Al wen ons nie die SKA bod nie, weet ons dat die MeerKAT'n voldonge feit is en dat gemeenskapsbehoeftes, in die eerste plek, minstens in belang van hierdie projek aangespreek behoort te word.
Ek en my DA kollega, agb Ina van Schalkwyk, in wie se kiesafdeling die SKA terrein gele is, beoog om op 28 Mei met beswaarde lede van die SKA gemeenskap te vergader. Ons sal die uitkoms van hierdie vergadering graag ter gelegener tyd met u wil bespreek. 'n Wen-wen oplossing kn en mt nagestreef word, en dit is alles in u hande. [Applous.] (Translation of Afrikaans paragraphs follows.)
[Hon Minister, I trust that you will protect the integrity of the SKA terrain and area with all the power at your disposal in terms of the Astronomy Geographic Advantage Act. I also request you to take a sincere interest in the communities that will be affected by the telescopes, and see to it that their personal, social and economic conditions are protected. To what extent is your department involved, or will the community forums be left to the mercy of the SKA organisation?
After my recent visit to the SKA terrain, it is very clear to me that people feel misled and excluded. Their experience is that others have little regard for their livelihood and needs. You know that I am here referring to all the people of the entire Northern Cape, with the only exclusion being the Sol Plaatje Metropole. They are not just, and I quote, "a few people with a few sheep living there", as one of the leading figures of the SKA referred to them.
I have since received several letters from concerned people. One writes, and I quote:
The community in the area of the SKA is proud South Africans who fully supports the SKA bid. They want to make a positive contribution to find solutions for problems concerning the project, in order to strengthen the South African bid and for it to be successful. Yet the community is experiencing that the negative impact of the project on their lives is not important to the department. It seems that the department is regarding these citizen's constitutional rights as being of of lesser importance than South Africa's SKA bid.
Grievances include, amongst other things, that certain provisions of the Astronomy Geographic Advantage Act and the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act are not adhered to; that consultation processes are inadequate; that promises are repudiated; that community forums under the leadership of the SKA organisation should not fulfil the government's informative role; that the results of an environmental impact study were not made public to the community; that no investigation was undertaken to determine the impact on the lives of the residents; and that the value of the properties is definitely influenced negatively.
Minister, the hope is expressed that you will make officials in your department available, with sufficient budget, to intervene properly. Even if we do not win the SKA bid, we do know that the MeerKAT is an accomplished fact and that the community's needs, in the first place, should at least be addressed in the interest of this project.
My DA colleague, hon Ina van Schalkwyk, in whose constituency the SKA terrain is situated, and I intend to meet with aggrieved members of the SKA community on 28 May. We really would like to discuss the outcomes of this meeting with you at an opportune time. A win-win solution can and should be aimed for, and it is in your hands. [Applause.]]
Chair, hon Minister, guests in the gallery, ladies and gentlemen, every country in the world today depends on science and technology for economic growth and progress. South Africa is no exception.
Some years ago the Department of Science and Technology was strongly promoting a National Research and Technology Foresight project. Its aim was to identify emerging technologies, and the market opportunities that go with them, that would be beneficial to South Africa. To identify what these emerging technologies were going to be, four macro scenarios, of which the Frozen Revolution and the Innovation Hub are two examples, were developed and investigated to create opportunities in 12 sectors.
The Minister will agree with me that year after year, through various strategic projects, over R7 billion was wasted on the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor project. No audit followed. Two years ago, the Minister was in a celebratory mood after the electric car, the Joule, was showcased at the Paris Motor Show. Now we hear, not from the department, but via the Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology, that after substantial expenditure, the project has been shelved. Where public money is used, there has to be accountability to Parliament. This is a constitutional obligation. A full audit needs to be presented on this project.
In the USA, the government allows a $4 000 tax credit for the purchase of an electric car. An initiative by US Senator Debbie Stabenow recently saw the introduction of the US Charging America Forward Act, which will allow the tax credit to become an instant cash rebate of up to $7 500 for buyers of plug-in electric vehicles. What an incentive this is for buyers of electric cars! Imagine buyers of the Joule being exempted from VAT and other taxes for the first two years of manufacture. That is a real incentive.
Countries like China, Japan and a host of European countries are also offering incentives to buyers to propel the electric car industry. Why is South Africa not creating a similar incentive model for the Joule? In Europe, the Airbus industry showed the value of several countries getting together to build an Airbus. Did South Africa explore the creation of a multinational African consortium to capitalise on the Joule and bring it to market? If not, why not? Also, did government explore the possibility of encouraging the company to take at least 10 000 forward orders from clients, here and elsewhere in the world, at predetermined and discounted prices, to allow the industry to be kick-started? After all, the car won huge admiration at the Paris Motor Show. Dropping the Joule at the very moment that other countries are jostling to be at the front line is short- sighted. The era of the electric car has dawned!
Innovative business solutions must be found so that the Joule can be produced as a viable business. Throwing money at a proposition is not the only option available to government. South Africa's big businesses are sitting on a mountain of R50 billion - surely government can facilitate a deal with them? This is a matter that must not drop off the table. The Minister must keep Parliament and the nation fully informed on developments regarding this matter.
Another phenomenal development is the emergence of Thailand and India's three-wheel mode of transport called the Tuk-Tuk, which could revolutionise transport systems in poor and developing countries. Has the government even started to place this item on its agenda of innovation?
It is a proven fact that poor people can improve their livelihoods by having Internet access and some information and computer technology, or ICT, knowledge. In this regard, what has happened to government's promises to erect Internet kiosks in every township to bring Internet usage to the people? Has government conveniently pushed this off the table?
Several international companies have laid undersea cables all around South Africa to reduce the cost of Internet usage and provide wider and cheaper bandwidth. Companies such as Pick 'n Pay and others offered their bandwidth after hours to allow for free Internet. Did government take up this offer? The desire to link these technological developments with relevant strategies seems to be lacking in our country's economic development. Manufacturing in South Africa has been declining for over a decade. The country is lagging behind international progress in this regard. Of late, reverse engineering has emerged as a new form of innovation in manufacturing processes and South Africa needs to explore this area.
Our science and technology is not backing up agriculture, mining, manufacturing, education and governance to the extent that it should. In Cope we value science and technology very highly. We hope that the SKA will come to South Africa and we hope that science and technology will not operate in isolation from the people but to their benefit. Science and technology must come out of their silos. A paradigm shift is needed, backed up by frequent progress reports and audits.
In conclusion, the Minister must be congratulated for her efforts in encouraging innovation and the change in leadership of the department and its associated programmes. [Applause.]
Chairperson, the Department of Science and Technology is often misunderstood in terms of its importance in the overall formula for the development of this country. It does not carry the same political appeal as the housing, welfare and social development departments, yet it is the key to our economic development.
The world is moving and it's moving fast, dividing countries between those who are technologically clued up and those who will remain technologically clueless; between leaders and followers in the field of technology. All that lies between us and the possibility of becoming technological followers is the Department of Science and Technology and the valiant and relentless efforts of its very good Minister.
This department is terribly underfunded for the function that it needs to perform. In my humble but firm opinion, the department does not receive the major support from the public and from all of us as politicians and parliamentarians that we should be giving it. Our future hinges on being able to perform a technological leapfrog into a future that will be on par with the more developed countries, otherwise we will not be in a position to extract ourselves out of our dependence on commodities. In the world of tomorrow, commodities are going to be an ever-decreasing measure of added- value products.
There is a great deal of talk about building infrastructure. The President has committed himself to direct government spending towards the building of infrastructure. However, if we look at the types of infrastructure, very few are really capable of lifting the technological floor of this country.
We have made mistakes and some were even made by my former party brother and leader, the former Minister of Science and Technology, Ben Ngubane, who felt that arms procurement would raise the technological floor of South Africa because we got these enormously complex machines. The fact is that that did not happen. We need to invest in laboratories and research facilities, which become available to the industries that utilise them, rather than promoting the creation of those very industries.
There are fields awaiting leadership: biotechnology and nanotechnology. We need to have large-scale government investment in building a Silicon Valley for nanotechnology or for biotechnology in South Africa. What we have in biotechnology in South Africa is enormous and remarkable, considering our small population basis and our small skills basis. It just needs a real push from government to be taken to the next stage where we can compete with countries like Israel or Japan, who are also trying to not be dependent on natural resources and to find their future in the world through technology.
In our view, processes in this country are moving into too many different directions. This happens across all the fields of policy. We want to do the one thing but then we do the opposite, or we want to do two things that are at odds with each another. The Minister has correctly spoken about centres of excellence. Excellence is excellence, it is across the board and it is always a commitment that we either have or do not have; that we either share or do not share. It is not a commitment that we perform in this committee, which is particularly technologically advanced, conducting its discussions, as we heard today ... [Interjections.]
Order, hon member, you are left with one minute.
It is even less, now that you have reminded me! [Laughter.] We need to carry that commitment to excellence in all the other committees. Unfortunately, there is a dumbing down of standards, which has a disastrous effect on our human capital goals, especially at the core of the science, engineering and technology, or SET, fields.
We must recognise the capacity of this department to express leadership in respect of other departments. When other line functions of government tend to dumb things down and bring everything down to the lowest common denominator, I wish that this department would exercise a stronger role of leadership and play a more assertive role with a louder voice, saying that a national disaster is looming. The IFP supports the Minister and the budget for her department. [Time expired.] [Applause.]
Chairperson, hon members, Ministers and Deputy Ministers, researchers and scientists, we are truly living in exciting times for science and technology in our country. It is an absolute hive of activity, with groundbreaking new initiatives in many areas.
In his Budget Speech earlier this year, Minister Gordhan identified investment in science and technology as an essential lever to achieve sustained economic growth. In partnership with science councils and institutions of higher learning, the Department of Science and Technology has shown how innovation can substantially benefit all the citizens of our country.
The DST's work is unique in many ways. We apply science and technology to address present challenges, but we also delve deeply into the past and look far into the future. Starting with the past, we must remind ourselves again that South Africa has some of the richest evidence of how plant and animal life evolved and how modern humans originated. In order to fully exploit this priceless heritage, and working closely with our palaeontologists and archaeologists, we developed a strategy for the palaeosciences, which was approved by Cabinet in February this year. The strategy is directed at building human capital, providing resource support and enabling legislation to collect, curate and research our invaluable palaeoscience treasures, and to increase public engagement on all aspects of this exciting field of scientific endeavour.
Implementation of the strategy has already begun: A new centre of excellence in Palaeontology will be established next year, and two new research chairs in the palaeosciences have been awarded. One is a carbon- dating facility at the University of Cape Town and the other is on the origin of modern humans, hosted by the Institute of Human Evolution at Wits University.
Last month, Minister Pandor unveiled the state-of-the-art palaeosciences microfocus computed tomography scanner, funded by the NRF. This scanner, the only one of its kind in Africa, can take noninvasive X-rays and provide high-resolution imaging of fossils, even if they are encased in millions of years of lime and stone deposits. This scanner will undoubtedly help to solve even more mysteries about the origins of humankind, adding to our country's growing reputation as an innovator in this field.
However, it is the science of astronomy that allows us to explore the much more distant past, going right back to where it all started. Our 64-dish MeerKAT radio telescope, which will be operational in 2016, and, even more so, the Square Kilometre Array will tell us more about the origins of the universe, revealing some of the secrets we don't yet fully understand. Astronomers from all over the world are already lining up to use these facilities. In fact, many leading researchers have already joined us here in South Africa. The SKA will, after all, be one of the single biggest global science projects the world has ever seen.
Moving to the present, we are blessed with a country that has rich resources with immense possibilities. For us to take full advantage of these opportunities we need many more young people to follow science-based careers. The DST continues to employ science and maths Olympiads and competitions to identify and nurture talented young people. Hon Surty, the DST provided support to more than 13 000 Grade 10 to 12 learners from Dinaledi schools to participate in the 2011 National Science Olympiad.
South African learners continue to excel at international science competitions. At the 2011 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, the world's largest science research competition for high schools, a special award was made to a South African learner who investigated how playing music could increase productivity in factories. [Applause.]
We are happy to report that South Africa successfully hosted the International Junior Science Olympiad in Durban, with 43 countries participating, in December 2011. In September the South African science centre community hosted the 6th Science Centre World Congress in Cape Town, which attracted delegates from over 50 countries, including no fewer than 17 African countries.
Our science centres, which we have every intention of expanding, help to create an awareness of and an interest in science. Almost all our centres offer career guidance and curriculum support programmes such as teacher workshops. The science centres also provide an opportunity for learners who do not have laboratories, especially at rural schools, to experience the excitement of practical science experiments while our mobile laboratories travel to schools far removed from the science centres.
The success of our science system is strongly dependent on improved performance at school level, as hon members well know. While technology alone will not provide all the answers, one of our challenges is to apply the available knowledge and technologies to support learning and teaching. With this in mind, the DST is working closely with the Department of Basic Education and the Eastern Cape department of education has started an initiative to look at how a range of technologies can be deployed to address education-related challenges in a rural context. The site chosen for this initiative is the Cofimvaba education district in the Eastern Cape, concentrating initially on the 26 schools in the Nciba area. A team from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has already conducted a comprehensive scoping exercise of these schools. The HSRC will be doing the important monitoring and evaluation work and will assist in guiding choices of interventions that offer the best solutions to achieve better educational outcomes.
Climate change is probably the single biggest threat facing humankind today and poor communities in Africa are particularly vulnerable to its effects. South Africa has made a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This can be done but will require a decisive shift away from our current carbon- intensive, resource-based economy to a more resilient low-carbon, knowledge- based economy using clean, renewable sources of energy.
Our government's 20-year Integrated Resource Plan sets the target for renewable energy to make up 42% of all new power generation by 2030. We know that we have an abundance of renewable energy potential in our country. We have some of the best conditions for solar energy in the world and sufficient wind-energy potential to provide us with most of our energy needs. The DST has established research programmes based at various universities focusing on solar and wind energy, as well as on biofuels, so that we can use locally developed technologies to harness these resources. Two new research chairs have been established for biofuels research.
It is perhaps in the area of hydrogen and fuel-cell development where some of the most pioneering work is happening and this is potentially the clean fuel of the future. We can see promising beginnings of a shift towards a future hydrogen economy. A number of car manufacturers have announced plans to start producing hydrogen-operated vehicles. South Africa's telecommunications industry is already replacing its diesel generators, using hydrogen fuel cells for backup power.
Most hydrogen fuel cells - and this is very important - use catalysts made up of platinum group metals. South Africa has more than 75% of the world's known platinum reserves. This is a serious advantage and, together with the very capable researchers at our centres of competence, places us in a strong position to seize the opportunities offered by a future hydrogen economy.
This morning - and it's a pity all of you weren't there - we heard about progress in hydrogen fuel-cell development from Dr Olaf Conrad, a director at Hydrogen SA Catalysis, one of the Hydrogen SA centres of competence. HySA Catalysis is cohosted by the University of Cape Town and Mineral and Metallurgical Technology, or Mintek. Its goal is to provide 25% of the global catalyst demand for the hydrogen and fuel-cell market by 2020. This year they developed a very promising platinum-based catalyst for fuel cells and further tests are being carried out on this catalyst to benchmark it with those that are already commercially available.
Potential hydrogen fuel-cell components that are being developed by the HySA centres of competence can be used for portable power applications, to provide quieter and cleaner alternative sources of energy compared to diesel generators, and the combined heat and power application, can be used to supply power and heating for domestic and commercial use.
To ready ourselves for the commercialisation of hydrogen fuel-cell products, a South African company called Clean Energy has been established. It will initially market and eventually assemble and manufacture fuel cells. Secondly, an agreement is being finalised with a Norwegian partner for the commercialisation of a hydrogen storage material, which is already a HySA systems patent. HySA has also developed a power management system for portable power applications, in collaboration with a South African company called Hot Platinum.
A lot of this will be unfamiliar to many members, but I really urge you that we should create the opportunity one day to do a more comprehensive presentation to the portfolio committee. In this area - when we start talking about a future hydrogen economy - lies massive potential.
Another critical present-day challenge to which the DST has responded is ensuring that our entire population has access to clean drinking water. The lack of safe water has a profound impact on the health of our poor and vulnerable communities. Recognising this, we introduced a pilot project, which was launched jointly by me, the Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs and the Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Land Affairs, to provide clean drinking water in six remote rural villages in the Eastern Cape, where people were collecting water from polluted rivers and streams and from increasingly contaminated sources of water. The project comprises the installation of solar-powered water purification units, combined with ceramic water filters provided to households. The initiative was prompted by the realisation that although considerable progress has been made in water provision to rural communities, some villages are highly unlikely to get piped water in the immediate future because of their remote location.
Six task teams were trained by the HSRC in hygiene and health promotion, thus ensuring that improved hygiene practices accompanied the provision of clean water. A total of 1 775 households in these villages now have access to safe drinking water. [Applause.] Yes, thank you. This initiative has once again shown how even relatively simple innovative technologies can make a difference in the lives of the people.
The second phase of this project will be piloted in Mpumalanga and Limpopo and a baseline study has already been completed, revealing different challenges. Our experiences in diverse settings will play an invaluable role in shaping decision-making on providing relief to the millions who still require access to clean water. It is a pilot and we are looking at it very closely and monitoring it with the Department of Water Affairs to determine whether this could be a technological solution to those people who find themselves in these very remote areas, where the prospects of delivering piped water are remote - in the near future, at least.
We are also doing very important work to ensure that existing water supplies are clean. We are pleased to report that the CSIR has developed a new freshwater ecosystem atlas, which shows which rivers and wetlands need to be kept in a natural condition. The atlas content summarises the data and on-the-ground knowledge of the freshwater ecological community in South Africa, representing over 1 000 person years of collective experience. It contains 19 priority-area maps, one for each water management area in South Africa.
Food security is another area in which our department has been active. A recent good example of constructive collaboration between the public and private sectors is the framework agreement between the Nestl Research Centre and the CSIR, announced in March this year. This partnership is directed towards researching our indigenous rooibos plant. Julle het dit mos daar in die Noord-Kaap en in die Wes-Kaap. [You have it there in the Northern Cape and the Western Cape.] This will come not a minute too soon, given the fact that in recent decades food production has declined in sub- Saharan Africa. We are pleased to report that no fewer than seven of the 60 new research chairs will serve the areas of rural development, food security and land reform, bringing the total of such chairs to 10.
I am sure by now you will all agree that there is an unprecedented level of activity in the world of science and technology in our country. Now we are all eagerly awaiting the outcome of the SKA bid. If we secure this bid to host the most powerful radio telescope in the world, we will firmly cement our position as a major player on the world science and technology stage.
We would not have been able to make our mark without our dedicated scientists, many of whom are sitting up there, who continue to work diligently in their respective areas of expertise. Only last month the University of Cape Town's Prof Jill Farrant won a prestigious L'Oral- Unesco Award in Paris for her groundbreaking research into the development of drought-resistant crops. [Applause.] The University of KwaZulu-Natal's Dr Gita Ramjee recently received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2012 International Microbicides Conference in Australia. Dr Ramjee has done a great service to South African science through her tireless contribution in the field of Aids prevention. [Applause.] That is very good. On a truly sad note, I would like to pay tribute to the science journalist Christina Scott who died so tragically in October last year. The world of science is poorer because of this loss.
In conclusion, I must say it continues to be an enormous privilege to work under the dynamic and energetic leadership of Minister Pandor and with a committed department under the able leadership of Dr Phil Mjwara. We would also like to express our appreciation for the consistent support we receive from members of all parties in the portfolio committee under the leadership of the chairperson, the hon Ngcobo. [Applause.] No, you do not have to clap. [Laughter.] We truly look forward to sharing with you in greater detail some of the initiatives happening out there because we have time only to touch on some of the many things happening out there. [Applause.]
Chairperson, Minister and Deputy Minister of Science and Technology, chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology, hon members, distinguished guests and everyone, I greet you all, in Cape Town and in South Africa as a whole, on this day. Today the DST presents its Budget Vote to the House and the nation as a whole. The DST fosters innovation and initiatives that are adapted to health care and poverty alleviation through advancement in science and technology.
The main aim of the DST is to develop, co-ordinate and manage the National System of Innovation, which fosters the full potential of science and technology in social and economic growth through the development of human resources, research and innovation. The DST is set to aid poverty alleviation and nurture a healthy nation, through efforts by agencies like the Human Sciences Research Council, the National Research Foundation, the Technology Innovation Agency, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and Africa Institute of SA.
South Africans are currently at a significant set of crossroads because of the great need for health innovation to fight the myriad health challenges in our diverse society. Health needs should be addressed in such a manner that the serious inequalities in our country at large are encompassed and counted. This means that the medication that is developed should be appropriate, accessible and culturally acceptable to the population. This issue needs to take into account various major challenges, such as appropriate health medication, health infrastructure and also appropriate needs-oriented research.
The DST has implemented specific health research initiatives, which include the SA Malaria Initiative, the Medical Device Centre of Competence, the Tuberculosis Research Centre and the SA HIV and Aids Research and Innovation Platform, or Sharp.
The SA Malaria Initiative facilitates an integrated programme of malaria research and the development of capacity-building in South Africa and, eventually, in the rest of Africa. Modern research technologies are being applied to malaria research to develop new tools to improve malaria prevention and control. Outputs will include the identification and validation of new drug targets, improved diagnosis and new tools for gathering epidemiological information.
The Medical Devices Centre of Competence will guide and support innovators of medical devices, particularly with regulatory matters and financial and business management. It catalyses and facilitates collaboration between industry and research institutions. It also facilitates fundraising to enable the commercialisation of products and services to overseas investment projects, to ensure that devices comply with regulatory requirements and also to harvest IP from medical practitioners.
The Tuberculosis Research Centre of Competence has six objectives, which are to co-ordinate TB research projects within the centre's consortium members; to facilitate the transfer of TB research outputs into outcomes of social benefit to South Africa that can be commercialised in the focus-area drugs, vaccines and diagnostics; to develop capital to meet the needs of innovative TB research and development; to enhance collaboration between TB researchers and the private sector; to attract private funding partners to the TB Research Centre; and lastly, to facilitate networking and knowledge sharing within the framework of innovation.
The challenges arising from limitations in human endeavours are issues that can be attributed to poverty and a deformed health system in a nation. That said, the DST's budget trend over the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework is based around five programmes, namely administration, research development and innovation, international co-operation and resources, human capital and knowledge systems, and socioeconomic partnerships. The DST has indicated that it will require an allocation of R4,9 billion in the 2012-13 financial year. The ANC supports this Budget Vote. [Applause.]
Chair, despite a limited budget the DST has, over the years, invested in a number of important ICT innovations like wireless mesh technology. It is important that these technologies are transferred and applied. Will this technology be used to expand connectivity in rural areas? This could benefit communities through telemedicine, improved service delivery and strengthening basic education through e-learning.
The awarding of research chairs to build capacity at universities is a very successful programme, which the ACDP would like to see scaled up by investing even more in areas that are important to South Africa's economic development. At the same time, the ACDP calls on the Minister to continue to recognise the valuable contributions being made by other National Research Foundation-rated academics and the future potential of emerging young researchers who are not awarded chairs. We hope you will continue to ensure that adequate funding is available, despite your limited budget, to these researchers to ensure sustainable success in innovation.
Research and innovation in the fields of science, engineering and technology often require multidisciplinary collaboration involving several stakeholders. As the Minister said, South Africa's researchers and technologies often function in silos. Will the department be formulating strategies and deploying technology to foster a greater level of joint ventures between the research councils and key initiatives supported under the budget?
The ACDP commends the Minister on the SA National Research Network and the Centre for High Performance Computing - now key pillars within the cyberinfrastructure intervention. Research shows these initiatives play an important role in preparing students for future broadband networks and computing, which are crucial for South Africa's competitiveness. On that note, the ACDP welcomes the new West African undersea cable launched on Friday, which we hope will drive down bandwidth prices and increase connectivity service levels in the country.
Globally, the term "cyberinfrastructure" is used to describe research environments that support stakeholders to innovate and utilise advanced ICT technologies such as data management, data visualisation, high performance computing, information processing, information security and Internet connectivity and not simply a range of infrastructure that can be rolled out. We suggest that the department treat cyberinfrastructure as an ecosystem and cultivate an inclusive approach that ensures all research infrastructures, key programmes and stakeholders can collectively define an effective strategy and develop an integrated partnership based on a shared vision.
While there are a number of monitoring and evaluation mechanisms within research environments, the ACDP calls on the department to define a range of measurables to benchmark the impact of its investment. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of respective research fields or programmes can enhance South Africa's local and international reputation.
Programmes supported by a number of existing DST strategies ... The ACDP will support this very limited budget. [Time expired.] [Applause.]
Chairperson, scientific and technological developments continue to make life easier, interesting and fascinating. It is hard to imagine modern life without cellphones, television sets, the Internet, etc. However, in the South African context, we continue to be consumers of technological advancement. We are not doing much to participate in the creation and innovation of such tools. Much blame has been allocated to our education system and whether this is legitimate or not is an issue that can only be debated with expert opinions.
The lack of creative innovation is not only a South African problem, but the whole African continent is lacking in this regard. It amazes me that CAT scans were originally innovated in this country. It does not make sense that over the years we have lagged behind and become mere consumers of very expensive products. Even more annoying is the fact that we live in a part of the world that is rich in many valuable materials, for instance our mineral wealth, but because we have lacked so much in developing our capacity for innovation we export most of our raw materials, only to import them back as products at a very high cost. This does not only costs the end user or consumer but paralyses our many attempts at creating job opportunities.
However, with the establishment of agencies like the Technology Innovation Agency we can only hope that we are on the right track. Over the years we have taken slow baby steps, but I urge those at the helm of such agencies that it is now time for us to see giant leaps on this front. Of course it needs a shared and concerted effort from various stakeholders, primarily from the two departments of Education, which must continually ensure that our children are stimulated and encouraged to take up the study of science. We are most certainly not in an isolated space and we have partners that we can learn from, like Brazil. Moreover, we have the responsibility to ensure that we resolve the challenges that have seen us suffering from the worst brain drain in South Africa and in Africa as a whole. We must recognise the potential and skills among our young scientists and make South Africa the ideal place to work in. In the meantime we must be prepared to source brains from elsewhere while we develop our own potentia1. The UCDP supports the Budget Vote.
Hon Ministers from other departments who are present, hon colleagues, the director-general and staff from the DST, and distinguished guests in the gallery: hallo there. I am sure I am echoing the sentiments of many across the length and breadth of our country when I state that the death of comrades Sicelo Shiceka, Roy Padayachie and Florence Nyanda is a loss to the cause of human freedom. The aforementioned comrades' lives manifested the reality that humanity was meant to be free and that there is nothing in nature forbidding the flower of freedom from blooming in its full glory. These comrades lived every minute of their lives agonising about apartheid conditions and the devastating impact on the lives of oppressed South Africans. May their souls rest in peace.
The study of science and technology is primarily about finding solutions to the objective challenges that we face as a nation. We realise the full potential of science and technology in social and economic development through the development of human resources, research and innovation. The advanced study in the disciplines of science and technology is acknowledged worldwide as a key element in building vibrant and sustainable economies in societies. So far, Africa has not fully exploited the opportunities that emerged from committed investment in research and development.
Economic development and future prosperity do not rest on independent and isolated actions and activities, but require regional interventions and planning. The critical importance of science and technology to regional development is set out in a document of the New Partnership for Africa's Development called "Africa's Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action". Nepad provides us with full opportunity to plan on a continental scale.
The Consolidated Plan of Action articulates Africa's common objectives and commitment to collective action in order to promote science and technology for the socioeconomic transformation of the African continent and its integration in the global economy. Africa's commitment to collaboration in science and technology was highlighted at the 2007 Summit of the AU Heads of State and Government, where members declared 2007 as the year for building constituencies and champions for science, technology and innovation in Africa.
In the past, African doctoral students tended to study abroad. Traditionally, the brain drain has been from the less developed countries to the developed countries. However, new patterns of the flow of students are now emerging, such as mobility within Commonwealth countries, South- South and North-South flows. In 2010, the SA Academy of Science published a PhD study. Even though the findings of this study cannot be considered as a proxy for the continent, here are some of the findings.
South Africa produced 1 274 and 1 171 PhD graduates in 2007 and 2008 respectively. Up to 29% of these were international graduates, primarily from the rest of the continent. While these figures may appear significant to some, they are very modest relative to comparable developing countries such as Brazil. In 2007 only 12% of doctoral graduates were under 30 years old, with the average age at graduation being 40 years. Only a third of all research and instructional staff at universities had PhDs.
In terms of job readiness, employers noted the lack of exposure to international expertise, theories and debates, methodological competence and real-world relevance as salient weaknesses in the skills and abilities of doctoral graduates.
The 2009 ANC election manifesto sets out a framework for building a prosperous, inclusive and dynamic economy. The framework is based on a vision of a fair and just society in which our diverse talents are nurtured in innovative and thriving communities. Innovation means both new ways of doing things that have actually been put into practice and developing patents or good ideas that have yet to be put into practice.
Research by the World Bank tells us that over the next two decades there will be as many as one billion new jobs in science, engineering and technology. While the old economy, based on extractive industries and resources, will continue to shed jobs, many more new jobs will be created in the new economy, which will be based on services and knowledge.
The ANC-led government invests in science to ensure that South Africans have the best opportunities to fill those new jobs. To contribute to creating decent jobs, Outcome 4, which is about supporting entrepreneurship, has resulted in 573 SMMEs in the first quarter of 2011-12 through its Technology Station programme.
In helping to create a skilled and capable workforce, which is Outcome 5, and to build human capital for the national system of innovation by the end of the second quarter of financial year 2011-12, the ANC-led government awarded bursaries to 1 275 honours, 2 771 masters and 1 574 PhD candidates. Furthermore, 2 339 researchers were supported in the same period to promote and enhance research productivity and to increase South Africa's world share of knowledge outputs.
An amount of R535 million has been spent on research, development and infrastructure between 2008-09 and 2011-12. Over the medium term R1,4 billion is being allocated. The allocation earmarked for research infrastructure will be used to provide state-of-the-art research equipment and infrastructure to the scientific community to ensure global competitiveness in research, development and innovation.
Between the financial years 2006-07 and 2011-12, government, through its implementing agency, the National Research Foundation, awarded a grant to the University of the Western Cape to acquire a 200 kV field emission gun transmission electron microscope at a cost of R10,2 million. It will be used for research in critical areas such as photovoltaics, superconductors, bioceramic coatings and metal semiconductor interaction.
Government awarded a R10 million scanning auger nanoprobe and a PHI5000 XPS versaprobe to the University of the Free State. The research focus areas for this equipment are nano solid-state lighting, flat panel displays, solar cells, corrosion of alloys and steels, drug development, biology cell structures, catalyst development and physical metallurgy.
The SA Academy of Science links South Africa with scientific communities at the highest level in the Southern African Development Community region, the rest of Africa and internationally. It promotes common ground in scientific thinking across all disciplines; encourages and promotes innovative and independent scientific thinking; promotes the development of intellectual capacity in all people; provides effective scientific evidence-based advice and facilitates appropriate action in the public interest. The total budget for the financial year 2012-13 is R17 million.
The HSRC undertakes, promotes and co-ordinates research in the human and social sciences. Its total budget in the financial year 2012-13 is R387 million. The SA National Space Agency aims to be a key contributor to the SA Earth Observation Strategy by providing space-based data platforms in collaboration with other entities that focus on in situ earth observation measurements, like the SA Earth Observation Network. Its total budget for the financial year 2012-13 is R144 million.
The Technology Innovation Agency is a national public entity that draws its mandate from the TIA Act of 2008 and is an intervention to improve research and development from institutions of higher education. Its total budget for the financial year 2012-13 is R451 million.
In conclusion, the key to achieving sustainable economic development and long-term success for South Africa lies in the ANC-led government's ability to build on our recent success in expanding investment in research and experimental development and building new industrial processes that are both locally innovative and internationally competitive.
Most local innovation is technology upgrading of core processes. Most of our enterprises operate far below the technological frontier, rather than doing basic research that is internationally competitive. Our future growth lies in increased research and development, accruing new patents and trademarks, developing new technologies for transforming traditional industries and creating new products, as well as training that will develop an acute knowledge of markets and their new needs. The ANC supports the Budget Vote.
Chairperson, hon Minister and Deputy Minister, hon members and distinguished guests, including our philosophers and scientists who helped and continue to help the ANC government to chart the way forward in bettering the lives of all South Africans, good afternoon. I rise to support the Budget Vote of this department for the financial year 2012-13 and to gain the necessary royal seal of approval. [Laughter.] [Applause.] This is not the DA's alternative budget which, with respect, is unscientific and will never see the light of day. [Interjections.] Furthermore, I don't propose to dwell much on the criticism by the hon Kloppers-Lourens about educational matters because, as she knows, there is a Portfolio Committee on Education. If she is interested, she should tell me and I will tell Madam Tea Lady to deploy her there ... [Interjections.] ... so that we can debate this matter at the proper level.
I also take this opportunity to thank the hon Minister, her department and all the entities working with the department for the good work done and the plans they have put in place to utilise the money allocated to the department to advance the goals set out by the ANC. The cadres of our movement are impressed with the manner in which you and Comrade Hanekom have led this department. We are particularly pleased, Comrade Pandor, that under your leadership the department has utilised the money allocated by Parliament to fund programmes to strengthen the ANC's determination to educate and capacitate South Africans to continue governing and valuing freedom, which is the result of the selfless struggle of our liberation movement led by the ANC for a century. We were particularly impressed by the open and transparent manner in which you accounted for all the activities of the department. No wonder you are rated as one of the best Ministers deployed by the ANC, sometimes even by the myopic howlers of the DA, which is a concoction of liberals and conservatives. [Applause.] [Interjections.] I am told that those myopic howlers are marching to Cosatu House today - a worthless cause indeed! [Interjections.] They have actually betrayed the few South Africans who have voted for them as their representatives in this Parliament.
Fellow deployees of the ANC, the only people's organisation mandated by the people of South Africa to govern have all said a mouthful to set out what our Department of Science and Technology has done, is doing and is determined to continue doing for the people of South Africa and, I dare say, for the people of our mother continent, Africa, and of the world.
I propose making a case for science, particularly for scientific research, as being key to promoting the ideals of a developmental state. In doing so, I will deal with the question of scientific research in our quest to promote indigenous knowledge systems and the need for science and technology in our determination to unlock, kick-start and accelerate rural development, as well as the issue of promoting agriculture as part of our agrarian reform.
The ANC's determination to promote quality of life is also dependant on ploughing, hoeing and reaping the crops and vegetables that nourish the brain and sharpen our minds to do even better and, of course, be faster. The department has a subprogramme comprising of three subdirectorates: Advocacy and Policy Development, Knowledge Development and Knowledge Management. This is in accordance with the strategic objective of promoting and developing research, development and innovation in indigenous knowledge systems for the improvement of quality of life.
Asinqwakuzi Mhlali- ngaphambili, yonke into siyenza sicingile, sidle amathambo entloko sisebenzisa amava nolwazi blweenkcuba-buchopho neengqondi. Asifukuzi asifuni sitya ebumnyameni yiyo loo nto abantu beli lizwe babhenela kumbutho wesizwe i-ANC, eyabakhululayo ukuba iya kuthi ibalawule kude kube ngonaphakade. (Translation of isiXhosa paragraph follows.)
[We are sane, Chairperson. We think carefully before we do anything. We deliberate on issues and we apply the valuable experience and knowledge of experts. We are not just fumbling and that is why the people of this country resorted to the people's party, the ANC, which liberated them so that it governed forever.] The subprogramme called the National Indigenous Knowledge Systems Office, or Nikso, aims to promote research, development and innovation in the IKS for improved quality of life, as some of comrades have already said. These activities set out clearly the five principal goals of the department through their focus on developing the innovation capacity of IKS in the National System of Innovation; enhancing knowledge-generation capacity; developing appropriate and unique human capital for IKS-related fields; building a world-class infrastructure for the recording and documentation of indigenous knowledge; and IKS laboratories to train researchers and to enable technology transfer.
Nikso has prioritised activities for the financial year 2012-13 in the development of legislation and the preservation and management of indigenous knowledge. How many believe that African scientists are capable of producing aircraft through African brooms and loaves of bread? [Interjections.] How many believe that through IKS, hail storms, tsunamis and other disasters can be stopped? This could happen if all members of a community came out of their homes, beating drums and irons, and making a noise to chase them away! This would avoid disasters destroying life and limb, as well as the destruction of our crops and the killing of our livestock. Africans are capable of causing thunderstorms accompanied by lightning. [Interjections.] Therefore science and technology will be used to prepare our national team, Bafana Bafana, for instance, to qualify for competitions. [Interjections.] Through the CSRI we are developing a system to check how the Brazilians are doing it on the playing field in order to outmanoeuvre them, of course. Therefore, I have no doubt that, through science, we will have a better Bafana Bafana for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations and 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Bangaphi apha endlwini abathandabuza ubuciko nobunzulu-lwazi bengqondo yemveli yama-Afrika, ngabula PAC ama-Afrika Poqo? Sibamba ngazo zozibini kurhulumente wombutho wamanyange i-ANC. Nathi esasi cinezelwe ziirhuluneli zasentshona siziva singabantu yaye sikwazi nokucinga ngenxa yesikhokelo esisiso seli sebe. Ngokwenene, iphupha loomakhulu noobawomkhulu kwi-Freedom Charter liyafezekiswa. (Translation of isiXhosa paragraph follows.)
[How many people in this House doubt the eloquence and indigenous scientific thinking of Africans, as the PAC would put it? We thank the experienced ANC-led government. Even those of us who were oppressed by the Western colonialist feel like dignified people who are able to think because of guidance from this department. Really, the ideals of our grandmothers and grandfathers are being realised.]
I'm reminded of a Pondo man, uValela, who created a machine gun and rounds of ammunition from the legs of a pot. He was arrested by the Matanzima regime because of his intellect. [Interjections.] It is pleasing to know that the utilisation of indigenous knowledge, through research and development, and innovation, through bioprospecting activities and technology transfer to communities, are priorities of the department.
RDI activities in the IKS focus on the following: research funding managed by the NRF; innovation and technology transfer undertaken by research universities and science councils; and the setting up of the IKS centres of excellence. Who knew there would be IKS centres of excellence in this country?
A ring-fenced fund of R10 million for IKS research is transferred annually to the NRF. Following the IKS fund review, Nikso developed, piloted and implemented the new research management system as an IKS policy imperative. The model is now managed by the NRF through the IKS programme management committee and has achieved the following results: There are 12 projects with 10 assistants, 8 honours degrees, 19 master's degrees, 11 PhDs and 1 postdoctoral degree. In the past three years, Nikso invested R30 million in 12 applied research projects, which so far supported 11 PhDs and 19 master's degree students. Five articles were published in peer review journals and 10 chapters were published in various books. This is a great contribution. [Time expired.] [Applause.]
I think today hon members have shown that they take a deep interest in the work of the Department of Science and Technology and are ready to support us to advance our work in developing research and innovation in South Africa. I hope the chairperson of the portfolio committee will remain true to his promise that they will adjust the budget towards the final vote in June to ensure that my department has more resources to do its important work. [Applause.] I think hon members must not be afraid to use the powers they granted themselves through legislation to actually ensure that they do support critical areas of development in our country.
In response to the hon members, may I begin by thanking each one of them for their contribution to this debate before I attempt to respond to some of the matters that have been raised. Allow me to say to the hon J C Kloppers-Lourens of the DA that the Deputy Minister did speak to the role we are attempting to play in respect of youth in science, particularly education research. Perhaps I should also encourage hon members to actually visit the exhibits we have prior to our budget debates and have a look at the work that is being done by the various research councils. If members visited the HSRC exhibition stand, they would have seen the wide range of publications emerging from research that has been done into education, looking at everything from mathematics performance right through to science and into curriculum change in South Africa. It really gives us a rich fountain of material for looking at how we might respond to some of the challenges we confront in the education sector.
Of course, we need to do much more. I am sure the hon member would agree that the challenges are far deeper than any of us often want to admit and they require a whole gamut of solutions, not just one, in order to address what is essentially a complexity deriving from a very difficult history. But we agree with the hon member that we must strive for quality and strive for improving our performance.
The department does participate in the community forums that exist within the Northern Cape, and are looking at the whole aspect of the SKA and its potential impact on residents close to the proposed site. I will certainly take more of an interest. Some members of the SKA project office are present. I hope, dear colleagues, that you heard that you are being dictators and are being very nasty to the communities out there. You must do better than you have done up to this point. We will certainly follow up on the concerns that have been expressed and ensure that we are responding positively to communities with whom we should be working far more closely.
Allow me to say that the role of our department is actually to initiate research, to support innovation and, hopefully, to arrive at innovative products that have the potential for take-up in the commercial space. However, we cannot move into commercial processes. That is done by the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Economic Development. Therefore, hon S K Plaatjie, the Joule is an initiative that should be picked up by the powers who have the economic muscle to work with industry to ensure that our innovations are taken up into the commercial space in South Africa and worldwide.
You would have seen, given your interest in electric vehicles, that the DTI has recently released a position paper on electric vehicles, indicating what they see as the future and what role they were playing in commercialising the products that emerge as we invest in renewable energy sources and new vehicle forms in the motor industry. So, I think it would be a good idea for you to look at that position paper because it gives you an indication of where the DTI sees us going with respect to electric vehicles.
My own view is that we need to do much more as the department to invest in greater efficiency in the energy that supports the new vehicle forms that we might create. That is really where our resources should be devoted; that is our business - increased efficiency and looking at new methods of providing fuel sources to any cars that might be produced.
We certainly agree with the hon Dudley that we should be strengthening our ICT research portfolio. We are already working with a number of SADC countries to look at how we built this ecosystem you referred to in respect of the high performance computing centres. There are some exciting developments ahead. Unfortunately, I could not finish my speech to announce some of the work that we are doing. I am also very thrilled that reference made to the work being done to study Africa, particularly to look at indigenous knowledge systems. I think, Chief Nonkonyana, this is a very important area of work and we are thrilled about the support that we are enjoying from both the centres of excellence at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and at the University of Western Cape, as well as the work being done at the University of Fort Hare. So, rich material is being unearthed as we grow to understand more and more the opportunities that lie within indigenous knowledge systems.
I am glad to assure the hon member of the UCDP that value addition is a very strong focus of the work of our department, particularly the beneficiation of strategic minerals in our country, because this has been a gap in much of our industrial activity. The work that the Deputy Minister and I referred to in respect of titanium, the hydrogen fuel-cells development and the use of platinum as a catalyst are areas that begin to make more value out of the natural resources in our country and on the African continent. I presage a new set of industrial and economic opportunities for the African continent, where we become producers rather than the consumers you talked about.
Finally, allow me to thank you for the opportunity you have given my department to present to you. I should complain that you ought to give us more time. I agree with the hon Oriani-Ambrosini that science and technology is not taken as seriously as it should be, both by South Africans and by many on the African continent. We are trying to make it a sector of choice. We hope, with the support of Parliament, that we will achieve that ambition. [Applause.]