Deputy minister of communications, Pinky Kekana, says Microsoft’s decision to invest in South Africa by building two data centres, is arguably one of the biggest Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) investments on the continent to date.
“Not only is it a remarkable display of confidence in the South African Government, but it is also an illustration that the clarion call of Thuma Mina did not just end in Cape Town or around our borders – it also reached Silicon Valley with great speed,” Kekana said.
Kekana was speaking at the 4th instalment of the Microsoft Annual Trusted Cloud Policy Summit, which is currently underway at Sun City Convention Centre in Rustenburg, North West.
The cloud conference comes just after Microsoft South Africa announced the availability of Microsoft Azure services via local data centre regions in South Africa, thereby becoming the first global cloud provider to deliver hyper-scale cloud services from data centres located on the continent.
Through the data centres located in Johannesburg and Cape Town government departments, State-owned Entities (SOEs), large businesses, small and medium businesses (SMBs) and citizens will be able to use massive computing power to fuel South Africa’s inclusive growth, spur innovation, accelerate digital transformation, and advance technologies including Artificial Intelligence, cloud and edge computing in the local market.
This partnership will also serve as a catalyst for government to accelerate e-governance and the roll-out of citizen services at an unprecedented scale and speed and in that way, accelerate government’s digital transformation programmes.
Kekana said the data centres are an invention and an investment that will not only jolt South Africa into a new era, but also enrich the lived experience of many South Africans.
“It is an affirmation to South Africans that the impossible is achievable if we all come together, as government, the private sector and civil society. It is important to note that these data centres contribute to our economy in job terms.
“Approximately 100,000 new jobs will accrue as a result of this investment,” Kekana said.
Kekana used the opportunity to respond to concerns raised by many people about the rise of Artificial Intelligence, in particular, that it may result in the elimination of jobs, worsen inequality and or erode incomes.
While acknowledging that the concerns are valid, Kekana pointed out that throughout history, new technologies have always been accompanied with warnings about human redundancy.
New technologies create specialised skilled jobs
On the contrary, Kekana argued that in reality, new technologies have created more meaningful and specialised skilled jobs.
“The fact of the matter is that technology brings about efficiencies on a greater scale. I have no doubt that Artificial Intelligence in South Africa will certainly create new areas of economic opportunity and to some extent, it will create new categories of employment. This includes, but is not limited to, software developers, networking and cybersecurity experts.
“Investments of this nature need to be complimented with initiatives from government which ensure that basic infrastructure such as the provision of electricity is not compromised in any shape or form,” the deputy minister said.
She noted that it is not only basic infrastructure that matters, but advanced infrastructure requires urgent action, as well as the provision of broadband.
“Fibre and wireless technologies to the most rural communities will be prioritised in the same way we prioritise the provision of water and electricity, access to internet connectivity is fast becoming a basic need.
“The 4IR presents itself as an opportunity for growth, development and democratisation – growth in the sense that our economy cannot remain stagnant with the innovations presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” Kekana said.