Department of Science and Technology

Friday, 1 September 2017            

18:00

Netherlands Embassy, Pretoria

 

It's a pleasure to be here with Ambassador Gerards who has been such an important link in South African-Dutch science and diplomacy relations.

 

The Netherlands and South Africa have cooperation agreements in radio astronomy, the bio-economy, human capital development (50 South Africans will study for a PhD in the Netherlands from next year), SKA (where the Netherlands is a strategic partner), open science, wild

-life security, and global governance.

 

As anyone can see, we live in a world where the influence of science and technology is ubiquitous. It lies at the heart of our communication, our household needs, our transportation, our entertainment, and increasingly, of the education process itself. The sciences are casting a broadening shadow over every aspect of our lives, and in practically every instance it acts to improve our lives – to provide citizens with better lives.

 

But there is much more to be done. We need more science, and especially, more women scientists, more women technologists, and more women mathematicians.

 

In other words, we are faced with an urgent and deepening challenge in the field of human capital development.

 

One of the major aims on South Africa’s national agenda is to instill a spirit of innovation in our nation - a willingness to look at challenges afresh, to consider problems and their solutions from different angles, and most importantly, to come up with solutions that solve known and real problems.

 

Most of the inspiring fifty are in IT or digital technologies.

 

Technology-based industries have essentially been defined and dominated by men. It’s been hard for women to break in to these industries.

 

We need the best people in digital technology fields. If you eliminate women, you are eliminating half of your potential. That would be a waste, and has been a waste in the past.

 

The future for our country and the African continent depends on our development of a large cohort of talent who can serve as professionals in scarce skills fields and take up the opportunity to develop new technologies and innovative solutions for our pressing problems.

 

Entrepreneurship requires an environment that rewards risk-taking. Every year, many, many ventures fail. However, the successful entrepreneur sees failure as a learning experience. There is no shame in second, third or fourth tries. Entrepreneurs do not give up – not on their ideas, not on their teams and not on themselves.

That is why I call upon our women and young girls in particular to seize all the available opportunities and instruments to build ICT R&D and innovation capacity in South Africa.

 

IT skills (coding) are a basic component of future prosperity.

 

We have grappled with the lack of parity between vocational and academic qualifications, and the corrosive impact this has on the motivations and attitudes of distinct groups of learners in our system.

 

IT skills can be learned at college or at university and it is the one area of life in which the rewards appear to favour the lower on the traditional ladder. There are lots of examples to follow in our country. Follow them.

 

Our role is to facilitate that process, to assist young people to develop the basic skills that are necessary to understand how IT works.

 

This is the situation that we face, as we look to women to lead us in the technology sector and as we build an innovation eco-system that will result in more scientists, and more women scientists, so ensuring that we can confidently face up to a technologically demanding future, and that our people can prosper as a result.