Hon Chairperson, hon members of the House, members of the Cabinet present here, chairperson and members of the portfolio committee, Minister of Communications, my sister hon Dina Pule, distinguished guests from the Information and Communications Technology sector, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.
Timeless wisdom tells us that the past explains the present and the present determines the future. The essence of this colourful day therefore lies in the story of our past, and it was shaped by our past. The total disregard of democratic values, as well as the suppression of popular participation of the black majority in areas of ICT, is the basis of our meeting today as we try to correct the past divide and find amicable solutions which will lead us to achieve our vision of ensuring broadband access for all.
We have invited industry players and all ICT patriots to descend on the Cape of Good Hope today, not to revel in just another annual pastime, but to remind them that we don't take our freedom and democracy for granted. On the contrary, we demand of them to work with government as we foster this paradigm shift and make our country a friendlier nation to ICT. [Applause.]
Twenty years ago, the journey of empowering our communities through ICT started. Although this journey may predate 1993, it was only 20 years ago that a firm road map was agreed upon and committed to by all South Africans in a participatory and transparent manner. This commitment was premised on a firm understanding that the hard-won freedom of all South Africans cannot be realised without the right to information, which is a basic human right.
As we have noted in the past 20 years, this fundamental human right cannot be fully exercised without ICTs that are secure, robust, reliable and universally accessible. The ICTs are the medium through which information travels. In our submission to a 20-year review undertaken by government through the Presidency earlier this year, we have chronicled how we, as the Department of Communications, have contributed to this journey.
I now stand before you this morning to give a clear synopsis, in addition to the Minister's input, wherein I will not only share with you our progress in respect of the commitments we made before this esteemed House during the previous financial year, but also our plans for this financial year. I want to draw your attention and highlight our contribution to the 20-year journey in the following: empowering communities through community radio, supporting learning through school connectivity, ensuring information security by vigorously combating the high, spiralling scourge of cyber crime, continually reskilling our youth for the knowledge economy and addressing the challenges for people with disabilities through ICT.
As Minister Pule has mentioned in her speech, the year 2013 is important for it marks 20 years since the first independent regulator, the then Independent Broadcasting Authority, IBA, and current Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, Icasa, was established to regulate broadcasting in the public interest in line with the Constitution. The first community radio station was licensed here in South Africa.
The licensing of community radio in South Africa has been a long struggle waged in collaboration with the international world. Today there are over 133 community radio stations licensed in South Africa and over 75% of them have received support from the Department of Communications. We commend other departments and state-owned entities, SOEs, across the three spheres of government that continue to offer various kinds of support to the sector. This is a sector that is synonymous with our selfless struggle for democracy that people like Chris Hani sacrificed their lives for and it, therefore, needs to be supported.
Notwithstanding the perennial challenges that continue to bedevil the sector, such as governance, this sector won a major achievement worth celebrating as a country for it has provided access to the means of communication by communities, particularly those in rural and remote areas, in their individual languages. As we celebrate these achievements, the critical question is: How do we sustain the sector for more years to come?
As a department, we have already committed ourselves to building a thriving community broadcasting sector, of which radio is but one part, as evidenced by the following: We have invested over R400 million in the sector since 1998 and implemented the new signal distribution subsidy scheme, through the public signal distributor, Sentech, which took effect on 1 September 2012. This new subsidy will see signal distribution costs for community radio located in rural and nodal areas being covered in full by the department for the next four years. Costs relating to urban-based stations will only be covered up to 70%. Over R6 million has been set aside for this scheme over the next four years.
During 2012 we further ring-fenced 40 rural-based stations for guided capacity-building programmes in content production through the National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa, Nemisa, to improve their programme offering. We hope that the dramas and documentaries, to be produced through this special programme, will be broadcast across all the community stations by October this year.
To empower communities, one must say that we are making sure that rural communities are not marginalised. Together with our entities and some private companies we have established ICT centres throughout the country, including in some traditional authorities. My esteemed guests - one of them could not make it here because he is sick - the king of the amaXhosa, King Zwelonke Sigcawu - and the Chairperson of the House of Traditional Leaders, Kgosi Maubane, bear testimony to this. [Applause.] This programme will over time be rolled out to other traditional authorities throughout the country.
Working together with the Department of Correctional Services and Microsoft on the youth e-literacy programme, we have supported over 100 beneficiaries that obtained International Computer Driving Licence, ICDL, certificates in correctional service centres in Mpumalanga, the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Western Cape.[Applause.]
For this financial year, our major focus will be on the following: the roll-out of broadcasting equipment to 15 stations that are new, those requiring upgrade and those with single studios; and the finalisation of the new community broadcasting support policy that will not only outline how community broadcasting will be supported, but how to extend such support to community television.
Linked to this policy, we will further finalise a model for implementing community TV in South Africa. This model is important in consideration of the capital intensive nature of community TV. We therefore have to implement it in a way that is financially prudent and offer huge economic benefit to the country in terms of job creation and local content development. We see community TV as a major strategic window to showcase and promote provincial development.
In consideration of the upcoming national elections in 2014, we will partner with the Independent Electoral Commission, IEC, to train community radio stations on how to cover national elections. This will be a sequel to the successful training programming that we undertook in preparation for the 2011 local government elections. The strength of community radio in national election coverage lies in its accessibility and ability to speak the language of the communities.
Regarding the issue of supporting learning through school connectivity, ICT, particularly new technologies, is a critical vehicle to facilitate learning at our schools. It is on this basis that, during the previous financial year, we engaged aggressively in rolling out broadband to connecting schools and community centres in partnership with the Department of Basic Education.
During the past financial year, we committed to connecting 1 650 schools to the Internet as part of the 2010 Fifa World Cup legacy project. I am pleased to inform this House that to date 854 schools have been connected. [Applause.] This number excludes those commendable initiatives by the private sector as part of their licence conditions and their community social investment programmes.
We will be connecting 2 000 schools this year and further engagements are taking place with various operators to increase this number. We are going to establish a forum comprising the Department of Communications, the Department of Basic Education, Icasa, other state-owned companies and the private sector to develop a school connectivity model and implementation framework. The impact of this approach will ensure that the school connectivity programme is co-ordinated seamlessly in the country, whilst optimally utilising resources. It is through this framework that we will be able to monitor and evaluate the impact of the school connectivity programme.
The next issue is ensuring information security and combating cyber crime. Cyber crime has become an inevitable reality that confronts all the online communities across the world. Identity theft, stalking, online child pornography and terrorism have become daily occurrences that threaten our communities' enjoyment of the benefits of new technologies.
As we expand access to the Internet, we also need a strong measure to ensure basic trust and security to the public as the users. This requires collaboration between departments, civil society and business to build institutional mechanisms to investigate cyber crimes and anticipate threats. Following the approval of the Cyber Security Policy in 2012, we will during this financial year prioritise the functionality of a cyber security hub to pool public and private sector threat information.
The cyber security hub will be responsible for processing and disseminating information to relevant stakeholders in the industry and civil society. All computer users have a role in securing cyber space and ensuring that the digital environment is secure and utilised reasonably to profit the socioeconomic wellbeing of the nation.
Our journey of building an information society cannot be complete without addressing the challenges facing people with disabilities. This is a commitment that runs across our policy formulation. Our country is already a signatory to numerous international agreements that mainstream access to technology for people with disabilities. Icasa is playing a crucial role in helping the country to fulfil this mandate. A code of practice for people with disabilities in line with section 70 of the amended Electronic Communications Act has been developed.
The e-Skills Institute, e-SI, continued on its progressive path to e- skilling South Africa for equitable prosperity and global competitiveness. The completion of the integration plan for the e-Skills Institute, the Institute for Satellite and Software Applications and the National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa, Nemisa, was launched yesterday by the Minister.
The new institute is positioning South Africa well to harness existing resources and develop new approaches to the co-ordination of appropriate capacity development, using its multistakeholder platform to contribute to the massification of e-skills delivery at all levels. This year the institute increased its visibility at the provincial and national level and impacted more than 30 000 South Africans at various levels - decision- makers, consumers of technology, practitioners in the ICT and broadcasting sectors, as well as communities.
The ZA Domain Name Authority, Zadna, is celebrating 10 years since its establishment in 2003. A legal framework to support the establishment of the ZA Central Registry, ZACR, which is intended to uplift the operational standards in .za, is being finalised. The ZACR, through Zadna's guidance and the African Union Commission, has made significant progress in its application for a right to establish and operate a dot-Africa: Internet namespace for the benefit of Africa.
Zadna has also ensured that our cities of Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg are not left behind in the Internet revolution that we will see in some of the leading world cities, such as London, Paris and Sydney, that have their own exclusive Internet spaces. As a result, ladies and gentlemen, expect to see in the near future new website addresses such as hotels.capetown, tourism.durban and business.johannesburg. [Applause.]
The successes we are presenting here this morning speak to the battles we have successfully won and the zeal displayed by both our officials and all role-players in the ICT space. Once again, we give this House and the country at large the assurance that we have what it takes to achieve universal access by ensuring that robust information and communications technologies are accessible, usable and affordable to all.
We will continue to make strategic interventions in providing the necessary support to this sector, working with our entities and the private sector. Despite the financial constraints which might have a direct bearing on the roll-out of universal service and access for all, we will not dare to renege on the commitment we have made to our people, because we come from a glorious tradition of struggle and self-reliance. No price can be too much for us to pay.
Hon Chairperson, allow me, with all humility, to thank my caring and supportive husband, Mr Abrahams, and our beautiful children for their continued support and understanding that, in more instances than not, they have to share me with the nation. To Minister Dina Pule, thank you for the team effort that you continue to demonstrate as we are taking the lead into the future ICT of South Africa.
Let me thank my Cabinet colleagues as well as my hardworking staff and the entire Department of Communications team for their commitment and dedication, particularly during this time as we conclude our five-year mandate of President Zuma's administration. A special thanks to the Portfolio Committee on Communications for their sound oversight over our work. We dare not fail our people.
Ke a leboga. [Legofi.] [I thank you. [Applause.]]