Department of Science and Technology

Thursday, 21 July 2016


Indaba Hotel, Fourways, Johannesburg

We have now had two decades experience of democratic local government.

From the disarray of the apartheid local government regime, we have forged a coherent local government framework that is appropriate to South Africa's conditions and developmental needs.

In many cases, we had to establish institutions and systems from scratch.

We have transformed discredited, corrupt local structures of racial control into accountable, democratic and integrated municipalities.

We have made tremendous progress in delivering water, electricity, sanitation and refuse removal to millions of people.

Across the country, we have built roads, parks, community centres, clinics, public transport nodes and many other forms of social infrastructure.

But there are still areas of great concern: institutional incapacity, and the consequence in a breakdown in services.

Our municipalities must be driven by appropriately skilled personnel.

We need to get the basics right. We have to do the following to go back to basics:

  • Put people and their concerns first and ensure constant contact with communities through effective public participation platforms.
  • Create conditions for decent living by consistently delivering municipal services to the best quality and standard.
  • Be well governed and demonstrate good governance and administration - cut wastage, spend public funds prudently, hire competent staff, ensure transparency and accountability.
  • Ensure sound financial management and accounting, and prudently manage resources so as to sustainably deliver services and bring development to communities.
  • Build and maintain sound institutional and administrative capabilities administered and managed by dedicated and skilled personnel at all levels.

Working together, we are implementing this approach across the country.

In addition, municipalities must strengthen local economic development.

One of the best ways to strengthen local economic development is to incorporate science and technology into municipalprogrammes.

Over the last decade, new innovations and technologies have emerged that provide opportunities to enhance the delivery of health, education, water, sanitation, energy, agriculture, connectivity, and houses .

Working in close partnership with appropriate national, provincial, and local governments, the DST is providing funding to support to a range of initiatives aimed at demonstrating new approaches to service delivery.

Currently, the DST is involved in the following key initiatives.

In partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we are demonstrating and testing at least 3 new off-grid sanitation technology solutions arising from the Reinvent the Toilet challenge. The demonstrations are beingundertaken in some of the 27 priority district municipalities.

We are building on successes in improving rural education at the large-scale Cofimvaba school district demonstration programme. The intervention focuses on ICT integration in the teaching and learning process, access to reliable energy, decent sanitation, appropriate nutrition and administration of the school health policy.

We are supporting and improving the functionality of a range of decision-support systems, including the spatial planning system called the Spatial and Temporal Evidence for Planning South Africa (StepSA), the Risk and Vulnerability Atlas, as well as systems that assist decision-makers in making informed decisions on the type of health, basic education, water, and sanitation interventions that would work best in the circumstances that they operate within.

Drawing on the successful experiences of countries like India and Malaysia, we have identified grassroots innovation champions to support grassroots innovation activities within their communities.

We are working with three rural district municipalities to leverage innovation opportunities for local economic development starting with a greater understanding of the design and strengths of the prevailing rural innovation system.

Let me give you two examples: the Rural Rose Geranium (RG) network and the Rural Innovation Assessment Tool (RIAT).

Rose Geranium is a crop that is in high demand internationally. The DST is working with the South African Essential Oil Business Incubator (Seobi) to develop a network of rural-based Rose Geranium oils production businesses. This work has three focus areas. First, the development of RG primary production processes that are cheaper and produce higher oil yields of international quality. Second, the exploitation of frugal distillation technologies as the technologies previously deployed in various rural areas were not fit for purpose, since they have proven highly expensive to run and hampered the long-term viability of rural enterprises. Third, Seobi has developed and is in the process of rolling out a comprehensive marketing programme to ensure the entry of rural products into mainstream markets (local and international). Some of the sites in the RG Network are located in the largely rural provinces of the Northern Cape, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape.

The Rural Innovation Assessment Tool (RIAT) is a grassroots innovation intervention whose aim is to distribute a tool that can be used to reveal grassroots innovations. Some of these innovations can be massified to contribute to local production and growth.

The DST has established Indigenous Knowledge-Based Bio-Innovation Programme (formerly called Bioprospecting and Product Development) which comprises six platforms in African medicines, cosmeceuticals, nutraceuticals, health beverages, incubation (technology transfer) and commercialisation.

The programme uses an Ubuntu-based model which is inclusive of indigenous knowledge holders and community-based structures. The IKS approach provides a two-way information exchange where communities are beneficiaries of the science system. Through its incubation and commercialisation platforms, the DST is able to create job opportunities for communities, the majority of whom are women and youth.

Moving on from specific examples, I want to talk about how our national innovation system is geared to support regional and local innovation systems.

Universities are the most important institutions in local economic development. They are central to local systems of innovation and they make or break the success of its key components: regional innovation forums and science parks.

Regional innovation forums play a key role in translating national science and technology policies, coupled with industrial and economic policies, into a real impact at local and regional levels.

Science parks can be highly valuable assets in promoting national and regional competitiveness, but by themselves do not guarantee regional success. For science parks to succeed in promoting local economic growth, they must be fully integrated into the overall social and economic development strategy and context.

We have a number of science park planning initiatives across the country, including the East London Industrial Development Zone, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, North-West University in Potchefstroom, Vaal University of Technology near Vereeniging and the Health Technology Park in Cape Town following in the path of Africa’s first IASP-accredited Science Park, the Innovation Hub in Pretoria.

With these developments, the DST's strategic objective is to develop in each of the provinces a number of regional innovation forums that will help to set collective research priorities for each province and to elevate innovation as a driver for economic and social development. The provincial growth and development strategies and municipal integrated development plans are important policies in which to incorporate support local innovation systems.

One local example is the DST's support for theStellenbosch Innovation District.

Our key aim is to foster collaboration between the partners within the local innovation system and to set shared priorities for research and development. 

But also, the aim is to create infrastructure and institutions that can exploit the generated knowledge and create those much-needed jobs.

The spread of free wifi is the bedrock on which local economic development is being built.

I'm sure you all know that the model adoptedin Tswane (where the wifi service is rented from Project Isiswe) has been far more successful than the one adopted in Cape Town (where the service is owned by the metro).

Much of this local connectivity progress has been enabled by research at the national level.

Following on the relatively successful implementation of the ICT R&D and Innovation strategy over the past 5 to 6 years, the DST in partnership with the CSIR, has developed a long-term ICT R&D and innovation implementation roadmap. Through intense consultations with all stakeholders and experts, nation-wide workshops and desktop research, the ICT RDI Roadmap has now matured into a framework for planning and decision-making for South Africa’s future investment in ICT R&D and innovation.

Our vision for 2030 is that we become a dynamic and connected information society and that we have a vibrant knowledge economy that is inclusive and prosperous.