The two parties on Tuesday September 29 hosted an Information Communication Technology (ICT) Business Fair at the Metro Centre in Braamfontein, the first of such events to be held in the city over the next five years. SEDA falls under the Department of Small Business Development.
Tuesday’s fair was attended by Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu, Member of the Mayoral Committee for the Department of Economic Development in the City of Johannesburg Councillor Ruby Mathang and dozens of SMMEs.
MMC Mathang said ICT had significantly altered entrenched economic orders and introduced entirely new industries, markets and jobs. He added that ICT was central to improved productivity, economic growth and job creation.
“In the City we have excellent business and research capacity which, combined with the fact that we are a young City with a young population, creates an excellent environment for us to develop cutting edge ICT products and services. Unfortunately the reality is that access to the broadband internet is currently too expensive and inequitable, with a large number of the City’s poor communities and residents not adequately connected and up 50% of some of the areas unconnected,” he said.
The MMC said it was against this background that the City’s Department of Economic Development had championed a number of initiatives to strengthen ICT capacity and connectivity.
“We have laid the largest metro network of fibre optics that will enable us to provide free Wi-Fi to communities. We will over the next six months be looking at making this network more widely available as we accelerate the rollout of our free public Wi-Fi hotspots announced last year. We will also deploy 3 000 young people, grouped as micro companies, to provide literacy training,” he said.
Executive Mayor Councillor Parks Tau said in his State of the City Address earlier this year that digital access had become an equity issue, the same way as access to water and electricity.
At the fair, SEDA showcased programmes aimed at building capacity and skills of the SMMEs, particularly those owned by women and people with disabilities to enable them to take advantage of opportunities in the sector. A number of delegates attending the fair said difficulties in obtaining funding were frustrating their efforts to start or grow their businesses.
They said if there were no drastic changes, many entrepreneurs would remain marginalised, which would be detrimental to the economy.