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SAP University Alliance Programme speech, 12 September 2008 speeches

 SAP University Alliance Programme speech, 12 September 2008

 

Address by the Minister of Education, Naledi Pandor MP, at the SAP University Alliance Programme User-Group Meeting, Walldorf, Germany.

12 September 2008

Volker Merk, SAP CEO, Germany

Prof Henning Kagermann, SAP AG Chief Executive Officer

Professor Peter Frankenberg, Minister of Science, Research and Art, Baden-Wurttemberg

Mr Heino Schrader, Director University Alliances Global Communications

Mr Maphum Nxumalo, COO, SAP Africa

Distinguished Guets

Ladies and Gentlemen

It's a great pleasure to address the SAP University Alliance Programme User-Group Meeting in my capacity as the Programme's patron in Africa.

The rapid spread of information and communications technologies is changing the way economic and social development occurs in most countries across the world.

ICT underpins every aspect of modern corporations, and it underpins all the work that governments undertake.

New ICT-related tools can make institutions and markets more productive, improve governance at all levels, and make it easier for the poor to access services.

ICTs make possible the fast, efficient and cost effective communication between countries and across continents.

However, most countries in the developing world particularly Africa continue to lag behind as far as ICT development is concerned.

According to the AU/ NEPAD report on the “Renewal of Higher Education in Africa”, there are a variety of reasons for this.

These range from lack of capacity - infrastructural, human and financial resources and in some cases unfavourable policy environment - to a lack of funding.

Nearly half of the internet users in Africa are in two countries, South Africa and Egypt . Thirty five African countries (66 %) have an internet connectivity rate of less than 1,4 %.

During the launch of the University Alliance Programme in South Africa in 2007, I indicated that South Africa is prepared to serve as a springboard for the rolling out of the programme throughout Africa. Skills shortages and deficits, particularly around information and technology, are not unique to South Africa , but affect the entire continent and the developing world.

Earlier this year the SAP University Alliance Programme held a training workshop at the University of Western Cape , where academics from current and prospective member universities across the world were introduced to the latest SAP technologies. We are looking forward to the carrying out similar excercises in other institutions not only in South Africa but other parts of Africa as well. The cordial relations that these kinds of excersises forge will not just enhance interaction among academics, but assist students and graduates to develop necessary confidence and expand their kbowledge and interest in information and technology.

Over the past couple of years a variety of policy frameworks and initiatives that we have developed especially in education highlight the significance that we attach to ICT in promoting economic growth, social development and job creation.1

Last weekend I attended a meeting of our Presidential International Advisory Council on Information Society and Development.

Established in 2001 by the President, it is a body that provides government with up-to-date information on new developments in ICT.

The Council consists of a group of Chief Executive Officers, Presidents and heads of major international corporations and experts, who are active in the field of information and communications technology and cabinet ministers.

Our concern is connectivity. African higher education is particulary impoverished by a lack of connectivity. In the word's of the AU's leading scientific and technological consultant, Professor Calestous Juma, African universities have the internet capacity of a family home in Japan , which is the equivalent of “30,000 people trying to use a single household connection”.2

The position is different in South African universities. Government has recently being making good on a wide range of infrastructural upgrades and renovations. It includes the development of a high-speed optical fibre network with an enormously improved bandwidth – universities were on 28 megabytes per second and it will now be 10 gigabytes per second. The new network (SANRen) went live earlier this year in Johannesburg and will soon link all our universities. It will also benefit from the cable that is currently under construction and will run up the east coast of Africa and connect us to Europe and India . There is now competition in the telecommunications sector and we will all soon be able to benefit from expanded access and lower prices.3

Our intention to improve our ICT capacity has been firmly established in higher education. However, information technology represents only 5% of total enrolment, and 4% of total graduates, representing approximately 5,000 graduates per year. These numbers fall short of industry projected needs. In addition, we only produce an annual average of 150 masters and doctoral graduates in the ICT sector.

I should note that Africa as a whole is not falling behind in the development of wireless technologies. We are in Africa in an excellent position with the development of wireless technologies through the innovative expansion of corporates like MTN, Orascom, and Celtel. There is no digital isolation or disconnection here. And it is on wireless technologies that access will be based in the near future.4

The private sector also plays a significant role in the provision of skills for our economy. We are fortunate that a significant number of companies - like CISCO Systems, Sun Microsystems - have established ICT academies.

The private sector has also been very supportive in partnership with higher education institutions, in the training of graduates and the search for knowledge solutions. Examples are numerous and range from the donation by Cray Computers of the use of their supercomputer to the South African Bioinformatics Institute at the University of the Western Cape to the partnership between Sun Microsystems, Telkom and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University to develop new solutions in the fast-evolving telecommunications sector.

Similarly, government has established, in partnership with higher education institutions and science councils, the Centre for High Performance Computing often referred to as the Africa Advanced Institute for ICT or the Meraka Institute. The Centre is our national research, training and service centre.

The E-education White Paper, adopted in 2004, sets a target that every learner in the primary and secondary school sectors should be ICT competent by 2013.

The Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa is a key government intiative that focus on skills development and economic growth, and has identified skills development particularly with regard to information and technology as a key area of focus for economic growth.

On the continent, South Africa has been instrumental in making sure that our development intitiatives as a continent take into account the importance of ICT in economic growth and Africa's global competitiveness.

For instance, in 1996, President Thabo Mbeki, then the deputy president of South Africa , played a prominent role in the historic Information Society and Development conference which gave rise to then African Information Society Initiative. The initiative was tasked to actively promote and intergrate ICTs in national developmental plans of African states.

The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) programme recognises the significant development role and crosscutting impact that information and communication technologies can have in all aspects of national life.

The development of the ICT sector is thus one of the priority areas of NEPAD aimed at defining Africa's new and aggressive effort to accelerate Africa's economic development and growth. The NEPAD ICT programme is aimed at bridging the digital divide within Africa and between Africa and the rest of the world.

A strong science and technological base and the ability to exploit new technologies commercially are central to spearheading African economic growth. Universities play a critical in this process, as increasingly they become important engines of economic growth and development.5

SAP's involvement on the African continent opens up windows of opportunity for African countries to accelerate their economic growth and development.

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate my gratitude for the sterling work that the University Alliance Programme is doing in uniting universities across the world. I believe that this exercise will go a long way towards bridging the digital divide between the developed and developing countries.

Thank you.

1CHE, Review of Higher Education in South Africa , August 2007.

2Calestous Juma “ G8 should support high-speed web access in Africa ”, Daily Yomiuri Online , 3 June 2008

3Karen MacGregor “ SOUTH AFRICA: Universities close the digital divide ”, University World News, 6 April 2008.

4“ Project would bring Internet access to emerging markets International Herald Tribune , 11 September 2008. “Google and HSBC have thrown their weight behind a plan to provide inexpensive high-speed Web access by satellite to millions in Africa and other emerging markets. The system will become operational by late 2010, according to a statement Tuesday from O3b Networks, based in Britain and backed by the two companies and Liberty Global, the U.S. cable operator controlled by John Malone.”

5Department of Science and Technology, “Technology Transfer and Diffussion: Capacity and Potential in South Africa 's Public Higher Education Sector”, June 2006.

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Written By: WebMaster WebMaster
Date Posted: 9/29/2009
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