South Africa and Nokia in ICT Partnership

South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology and Nokia are to partner on a number of information and communication technology projects, ranging from educational services on mobile devices to rural broadband access and support for the country’s Square Kilometre Array bid.

A recently signed memorandum of understanding between the department and the global mobile giant establishes a framework on which potential areas of collaboration can be developed, funded and implemented.

Addressing the media in Tshwane this week, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor acknowledged the role of ICT in stimulating economic growth in the country. “This is why the [department] is leading the implementation of the national ICT research, development and innovation strategy.

“In this regard, we view public-private partnerships to be of importance for us in achieving this objective.”

Innovative indigenous ICT industry

According to a statement by Nokia, one of the key expected outcomes of this plan is an innovative indigenous ICT industry that addresses South Africa’s ICT needs in the public and private sectors, and attracts investment by multinationals involved in innovation and manufacturing.

“In addition to a significant increase in the number of postgraduate students at Masters and PhD levels, these R&D outputs are gradually evolving into near-market prototypes, large-scale technology demonstrators and packaged solutions that can readily address key priorities of [the] government, such as education, health and enhanced citizen interaction with government,” Nokia said.

Nokia vice-president for government relations in the Middle East and Africa, Jussi Hinkkanen, said South Africa had a thriving telecommunication industry with a lot of potential for innovation. “Our objective is to support local talent in developing their skills, and then integrate them into both regional and global markets,” he said.

In addition to stimulating entrepreneurial activity and high technological innovation, the collaboration intends to stimulate the interest of South African learners, cultivating the scientists and engineers of tomorrow.

“As South Africa’s leading mobile company, it is our responsibility to identify areas where our technical skills can facilitate the development of society,” said Nokia South Africa general manager Gerard Brandjes. “We hope the educational focus under this collaboration will motivate thousands of South African learners to explore careers in technology.”

Areas of cooperation

Focus areas covered in the memorandum of understanding include:

Basic science education support programmes: In conjunction with the Department of Basic Education, the Department of Science and Technology and the Meraka Institute of the Council for Industrial and Scientific Research (CSIR), programmes aimed at improved delivery of educational services through the use of mobile devices are being implemented.

These include the Mobile Learning for Maths and Nokia Education Delivery initiatives, which were created to assist in the education of tens of thousands of South African learners.

Mobile applications laboratory: This is a joint initiative between the Department of Science and Technology, infoDev, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Finland) and Nokia that aims to train and build both the business and technical capabilities of the local developer community.

This will help them develop locally relevant content, solutions and services, and connect them to local, regional and international markets.

Access to broadband networks for communities: Through Nokia Siemens Network and the CSIR, the parties will explore ways to enhance access to ICT for rural communities and support the wireless mesh network project.

Support for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) bid: Through the Nokia Siemens Network, the Africa SKA Project Office and the DST, the parties will continue to seek ways to enhance collaboration on large-scale computing, data transport and sensor networks in support of the African SKA bid; a project that is expected to revolutionise the ICT industry in terms of data processing and sensor networks.

“Nokia Siemens Networks is using its global expertise in telecommunications and in-depth knowledge of the local South African market to advise the SKA bid teams, from both a technical and business perspective, about the best options to transport the huge volumes of generated data to the high-performance computer centre of the SKA,” said Nokia Siemens Networks South Africa MD Rufus Andrew.

“We have been involved in the project from the start, supporting and advising the project team on all technical requirements, capacity planning, provisioning and skills.”