Pandor wants innovation in IT
Cape Town - Internet Technology development remains important to South Africa, but the country is not yet on the frontier of innovation, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor said.
"That does not mean that South Africa is reaping 'first-mover' dividends from R&D [research and development]. In fact, quite the contrary. Most of the IT R&D spend is for second-hand innovation. We are not on the frontier of IT innovation. We import technologies from abroad and adapt them for local use," Pandor told News24.
She was speaking at the IT Infrastructure Summit in Cape Town where delegates discussed how IT infrastructure could benefit public and private enterprises.
South Africa's broadband infrastructure is one of the keys to develop the economy and Pandor said that all universities and research institutions would soon have access to broadband.
"SANReN [South African National Research Network] is a high-speed network that enables and supports scientific and technological research. SANReN will quite soon provide broadband access to all universities, science councils, national research facilities.
"SANReN Phase I commenced in 2007 and, when complete, will connect at least 60 university campuses and research institutions across the country at very high speeds."
The minister hinted that she was intent on increasing tax credits to companies that engaged in technology innovation, similar to other countries, notably Australia.
"In Canada it's a $4.5bn a year tax credit and it's tweaked and expanded each year - not without controversy. In Australia it's even bigger.
"In South Africa it's only a R200m a year tax credit. We are working on improving the credit and Treasury is working on improving it in tandem with a new venture capital regime - announced in the budget this year.
"We can do more to encourage start-ups and it's in the IT and high tech sector that we see most of these developing," Pandor said.
One of the major technology projects in SA at the moment is the bid to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope in the Northern Cape province.
Seven telescopes have already been built as an engineering test bed near Carnarvon and the next phase is the building of the MeerKAT, which will consist of 64 instruments.
The SKA will consist of over 3 000 linked radio telescopes and is a key driver of innovation and human capital development, said SA SKA project director Dr Bernie Fanaroff.
"One of the exciting things about the Square Kilometre Array is that it pushes the boundaries of technology and as such, it raises a lot of challenges which are very relevant to the ICT [internet, communications and technology] industry in the next two, three decades.
"By working on the Square Kilometre Array and on the MeerKAT as we're doing now, we're developing a group of young people who have skills and capabilities - not just in current technology - but in the next-generation technology," he said.
- Follow Duncan on Twitter