EFA Attends Government’s Road Show on ICT Strategies
The Department of Telecoms and Postal Services (DTPS) issued a draft national e-strategy, e-government, and ICT SMME Support Strategy on 31 March (see http://www.gov.za/documents/electronic-communications-and-transactions-act-national-e-government-strategy-and-roadmap), and has started a series of Roadshows with a two-day meeting in Gauteng on 8-9 May. Our Co-Chair, Dylan Piatti, attended the first day which concentrated on the e-strategy and also on e-government. I attended the second day on the ICT SMME Support. Other road shows will take place over the next two months in the Provinces.
As the DTPS says in its introduction to the Support Strategy, “The national strategy builds on the various e-government initiatives implemented by a number of [government] departments over the past 14 years. Its purpose is to guide the digital transformation of public services in SA into an inclusive digital society”. However, as the DTPS recognises there are a number of serious barriers, including an overall lack of appropriate IT skills; costly data; lack of access (in rural areas especially); concerns by SMMEs over doing business with large companies & government; lack of appropriate training; lack of content.
The attendees at the Roadshow were told that the DTPS proposed to impose a 30% SMME input requirement for any government-related ICT projects in future together with stringent BBEEE quotas. A number of the attendees, however, pointed out that a recent study shows that 75% of SMMEs will not do business with government or parastatals due to delayed or non-payment or long delays in projects which affected cash flow. The DTPS also agreed to set up an SMME Committee in its ITC Forum (EFA is presently a member of the Economic & Governance Committees of this Forum and we have asked to join this new committee).
The Support Strategy initially asked for comments by end April. Ms. Jeanette Morwane, Chief Director of the Project in the DTPS, however, told delegates that the timescale for submitting comments would be extended until 31 May.
The EFA has therefore prepared a commentary on the Support Strategy. In this, we plan to point out that although few EFA members are ICT SMMEs, ecommerce relies on ICT and therefore has a part to play in encouraging developing ICT in general and SMMEs in particular. EFA will respond to the DTPS’s specific proposals on ecommerce (page 613) which states “Development of ecommerce to stimulate SMME development and economic inclusion and empowerment in the ICT sector – Restructuring of SAPO as a hub for ecommerce in SA and the region; development of an ecommerce gateway platform that should position SA as the hub of ecommerce in the country and the region”. EFA intends to point out to the government that there is an urgent need for government support on ecommerce and that a start could be to support the EFA’s plans to provide basic training on ecommerce for start-ups & SMMEs (see below).
EFA meets SADICO on training possibilities
The Co-Chair of EFA, Dylan Piatti and I met the South African Digital Content Organization (SADICO) on 16 May to discuss possible collaboration in training SMMEs and start-ups from the townships. SADICO, which launched in 2010, provides assistance and mentors to the township youth in Gauteng who want to enter the ICT sector. The details of how this collaboration will operate is being worked out. For more information please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org). In our training module, we will be promoting our members.
The Cost of Data in SA
One of the problems raised in the DTPS Support Strategy (see above) was the cost of data for both business and the consumer. The DTPS’s controversial White Paper on ICT (not to be confused with the Support Strategy) calls for the introduction of much more competition and the capping of the percentage of broadband access owned by any one player. The DTPS calls for more WOANs (Wireless Open Access Networks) to be established.
Huawei and the German T-Systems announced last month their collaboration on a pay-as-you-use service, Open Telekom Cloud (OTC) based in SA. In their publicity, OTC claims that because it is fully operated in SA no data will be exported and therefore that it is fully compliant with the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act. This statement is rather misleading for two reasons, first because POPIA will apply to foreign cloud operators who process SA personal data, and, second, since some countries in Africa, all European countries, as well as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Hong Kong, have even stricter privacy laws than SA, your data as a consumer may be better protected if it is in part of the cloud regulated by, for example, a European country!
In another project VAST Networks, claiming to be the first open access Wi-Fi provider, has announced plans to grow the number of Gauteng township residences it serves to 1.5 million within the next two years.
Restriction Internet Access in Africa
The Africa Network Information Centre (AFRINC), which manages and allocates much of the registration of internet addresses in Africa, intends to debate a resolution to refuse internet addresses to countries which restrict internet access. This resolution is due before the AFRINC’s annual meeting on 29 May – 2 June in Kenya.
AFRINC points out that 11 countries in Africa had restricted internet access to some extent over that last 15 months. Mostly this was for political reasons – for example, both The Gambia & Gabon shut down all internet access during the period leading up to their national elections last year. The DRC closed the opposition’s internet access in preparation for its elections. Cameroon, on the other hand, has suffered seemingly from technical issues which has seen much of the country without internet for long periods.
The African Union encouraged to do more on the digital economy
Mr. Moussa Mahamat, who replaced Mrs. Diamini Zuma as chair of the AU recently, has been called upon to look at the “on-demand” economy. Entrepreneurs that utilize technology to fulfill needs within the economy are replacing governments in Africa as the drivers of economic success.
New tech start-ups, particularly the developers of Apps, are now the leaders of innovation & the economy; and online shopping is growing fast in many African countries. A new KPMG study on African ecommerce shows that 50% of Africans who purchase online shop across frontiers.
News from India
There are moves to create an association for ecommerce in India and EFA has been asked for its advice. Our Co-Chair, Dr Adheesh Budree, and one of our Board members, Luisa Mazinter, have both been building strong contacts with key players in the Indian digital economy. It is estimated that one in three Indians now have access to the internet. A large percentage access the internet via smartphones, and, according to a McKinsey study over 70% of online sales are done using smartphones. At present, the ecommerce market in India is estimated to be worth over $15bn. That is expected to grow by 2020 to over $50bn!
News from Europe – Smartphone Trends
A recent GfK study on the future of the European Digital Economy, unveiled last month in Portugal, shows that the smartphone will dominate the European market in the coming years.
- GfK believes that mobile payment systems, particularly Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, and add-on devices will disrupt the retail trade in the next few years;
- Virtual reality on smartphones will drive gaming and entertainment;
- Smart home technologies operated by smartphones are becoming all the rage for millennials buying their first property;
- Smartphones will also become an increasingly important part of both entertainment and security for the automobile industry;
- And, finally, that wearables as part of smartphone technology will continue to make inroads into the market.
News from the European Union
The European Commission continues its heavy workload on the digital economy by publishing a list of recommendations and standards on digitalization. These encourage its 27 member states (excluding the UK) to invest in research, technical devices, and ICT-related SMME start-ups. Funding should be made available, the EC recommends.
In another initiative, the EC has published a workshop report dealing with online platforms. The EC commits to looking at regulations to combat cyber terrorism, to protect children from cyber abuse and bullying, and to improve cyber security.
The workshop predated the massive cyber-attack on one of the French Presidential candidate’s campaigns on the eve of the vote. Despite that attack the candidate, Mr Macron, was successfully elected on a centralist platform. This comes as mounting evidence indicates that military-style cyber warfare techniques are being used to subvert democracy. It is alleged that these techniques were used in both the US election and the Brexit vote (both of which were close run) and that they originate from both Russia and also a shady American company called Cambridge Analytics with close ties to President Trump (the ex-CEO is now one of Trump’s main advisors). Cambridge Analytics has been involved in a number of recent elections in Africa and South America according to sources.
Mastercard trials is biometric shopping card in SA
Mastercard has announced that it has started to trial its biometric credit/debit card based on fingerprints in the SA. Pick n Pay staff have been provided with new cards for this global trial. ABSA is also looking at rolling out a trial with Mastercard.
The question is will this new card technology benefit ecommerce?