Plan to close digital gap

Deputy Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Stella NdabeniAbrahams addresses a gathering in Langa.

The internet ecosystem is changing rapidly and presents dozens of economic opportunities for businesses.

However, for black entrepreneurs who run Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) the change means nothing.

They claim they are not well equipped to tap in this lucrative market.

They added that they felt sidelined. This emerged when Deputy Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, met with various stakeholders in Langa, on Thursday March 29, to officially conclude the Internet Service Provider (ISP) national training programme.

The programme, which started in 2016, trains and empowers young unemployed people, entrepreneurs, unemployed graduates and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) students in conflict with the law on developing capacity and local expertise in aspects of operating as an ISP, especially in domain name reselling.

The department conducts the training in conjunction with the .ZA Domain Name Authority (.ZADNA).

Ms Ndabeni-Abrahams said the department had embarked on this programme in a bold effort to close the digital gap, combat digital exclusion and capacitate local SMEs to benefit from the digital economy.

She said ZADNA was implementing a countrywide .ZA (dotZA) Domain Name Registrar-Reseller Development programme for local start-ups and SMEs.

She said the domain name registrars and resellers are ISPs that are authorised to provide domain name registration services to consumers.

Ms Ndbeni-Abrahams said since its inception, the programme had conducted more than 16 training sessions across the country, equipping young people with various internet skills.

She said the main aim of the programme was to unlock businesses opportunities for small black-owned businesses. But most importantly, to create job opportunities.

Ms Ndabeni-Abrahams said the programme was a flagship project under the department’s ICT Economic Participation for Youth. It has benefited more than 140 young people in the country.

Ms Ndabeni-Abrahams said it was important that South Africans use this domain as it assisted the country in creating job opportunities and boosting the economy. But she said the biggest challenge faced by the government was to transform the IT sector and for local people to roll out services.

“We want black-owned small enterprises to participate in this market. We also need to empower the youth with the relevant skills. Young people must be given skills and support to start their own businesses. We need young people to be innovative. But we must also urge our people to safeguard premises that are meant to render services to them,” she said.

Ms Ndabeni-Abrahams said the department supports eight provinces, except the Western Cape, with the roll-out of the broadband services. She said the Western Cape government decided to take a different approach and indicated that they wanted to roll out their own broadband services.

Ms Ndabeni-Abrahams said if people were able to use the internet and technology they could easily create job opportunities. She said that they did not only wanted to equip young people with skills, but wanted them to be able to maintain the computers.

Ward councillor Samkelo John said they had no postal services in the area since their post office building was demolished during a riot.

He said the area had no internet hot spots and young people were reluctant to come to Guga’ Sithebe due to youth gangsterism.

He, however, applauded these empowerment workshops, saying it was the right step towards youth upliftment.

Youth Anele Nembile said he was glad to be part of the workshop and has learnt a lot.