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Connectivity infrastructure and regulation top AfricaCom 2020 agenda

South Africa has prioritised connectivity in the process of leapfrogging into 4IR, fast-tracked as a result of COVID-19.

This is according to South Africa’s Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.

Ndabeni-Abrahams presented at the virtual Africa Tech Festival, hosted this week as part of the annual AfricaCom programme, and said COVID-19 has forced Africa to leapfrog directly into 4IR, and connectivity of people is a priority to leverage digital platforms.

The overall objective is for people to participate meaningfully in the digital economy, she said.

“In this regard, we have launched a programme called SA Connect, and moving from what we used to do in terms of connecting only public buildings, we are making sure that we connect people from where they are, taking fibre to the homes, taking fibre to the field…wherever people are at,” said Ndabeni-Abrahams.

The Minister referenced South Africa’s 4IR Commission and the roll out of a blueprint or roadmap for the country’s digital transformation.

She added that based on recommendations from the Commission, the country’s government has introduced a national digital skills strategy to develop human capital and is in the process of gazetting a draft data and cloud policy to serve as a guideline for investment in datacentre infrastructure.

Reflecting on the findings of the AFCOM State of the Data Centre 2020 report, ICT and telecommunications professionals believe datacentres and infrastructure remains as critical as ever.

The report showed that the total number of datacentres within the next 12 months jumped 5% points, up from the previous report at the beginning of the year to the latest research.

There were also increases in the total number of datacentres to be renovated or expanded, up by 4% points, as well as the number of datacentres to be built by 5% points.

Kevin Kent, CEO, Critical Facilities Efficient Solutions, said: “… the biggest number came from people building five to nine new locations and on that note, that is fascinating because it shows us that even though – and this is actually an interesting trend to note - enterprise datacentres might be shrinking, the colocation and cloud and other hyperscale leaders are continuing to grow in our market. Those five to nine locations actually include things like edge, where organisations are trying to connect so many new distributed people all over the world and also control something known as latency.”

The Minister also said South Africa has identified AI as one of the key 4IR technologies and intends to create an AI institute in order to build relevant capability.

Also presenting, Alioune Ndiaye, CEO – Middle East and Africa, Orange, reaffirmed the need for telecommunications, partnerships and a fair regulatory environment to ensure a pan-African connectivity strategy to connect the next billion.

The company is hosting a media conference during the virtual event to provide details on the launch of the Djoliba pan-African fibre optic network.

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