Government will accelerate the licensing of radio frequency spectrum, and has begun work on the licensing of the proposed 5G spectrum, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday at the opening of the ITU Telecom World 2018 conference in Durban.
The president said government had conducted "deep and thorough" consultations with the telecommunications sector to ensure allocation of spectrum "to reduce barriers to entry, promote competition and reduce costs to consumers".
"Following a Cabinet decision last month, regulator Icasa [is] now preparing to license available high demand spectrum. In addition, we have begun work in preparation for 5G spectrum licensing as part of efforts to build a smarter digital economy," the president told the conference, which will run until Thursday.
Technology must not only be preserved for the elite but must be utilised by all, Ramaphosa said.
"The presence of broadband is essential in rural areas for the growth of our economy. It is critically equal that government and the industry create relationships between themselves and the communities they serve."
Lack of internet access
Ramaphosa said the expansion of broadband must be a priority in South Africa, the African continent and developing countries.
"Twenty million South Africans do not use internet because of challenges such as unaffordability, lack of internet enabled devices and lack of access. This is a serious challenge which must be addressed. Eighty-seven percent of households have access to mobile phones which presents us with a great opportunity to overcome digital exclusion and to drive inclusive growth and innovation," he said.
He added he was honoured that South Africa hosted the conference for the first time on the African continent.
"Forums like this enable us to understand its origin so we can harness it for human development and humanity. It is our task to ensure the 4th industrial revolution, the digital revolution does respond to the needs of developing worlds and economies. It must enhance economic growth and address unemployment and solve the world's challenges," he said.
Ramaphosa said women-led businesses must play a critical role in technology "because women in many countries are often left behind".
"Technology must place women in the forefront so they can play a critical role in technological advancement. We must also make sure that the youth play a key role. Small businesses, women and youth must be given a critical role in technological advancement," he said.
He encouraged entrepreneurs to create employment for the country by making use of technology.