DIGITAL STRATEGY Digital Centres are catalysts for fast-tracking economic development Moses Kotane Institute CEO Dr Thandeka Ellenson outlines the chief objectives of the research body which is driving KwaZulu-Natal’s digital transformation. Biography Dr Thandeka Ellenson is a humanitarian counsellor, business accountant, lead innovator, a leader in various respects of life and the CEO of the Moses Kotane Institute of Research. She serves on various boards that reflect her passions, including education, research and development, innovation and digital transformation. Specifically, she serves as the board member of the MKGF which is a foundation that educates society about how gender-based violence affects the economy and how to transform a person’s mentality out of poverty. She is an equal-treatment activist, an emerging author and a humanitarian who strongly believes in mental-capacity development and continuous learning. She believes that an educated mind has the potential to make informed decisions. Dr Ellenson holds a BCom Hons from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, an MBA from the Anglia Ruskin University (UK) and a DBA from Columbia Southern University (USA). 38 | www.opportunityonline.co.za Moses Kotane Institute CEO Dr Thandeka Ellenson.
DIGITAL STRATEGY _________________ Women in ICT require support by government, industry and academia. ________________ What is the mandate of the Moses Kotane Institute? The mandate of the Moses Kotane Institute is to conduct research for provincial government. We do this by developing practical researchbased solutions on priority sectors that contribute to the needs of the provincial economy. To whom does the MKI report? The MKI reports to the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs. Please outline the research function of the institute. The research function responds to provincial needs, contributes to economic growth and promotes evidence-based decision-making in the public sector. This also serves as an information platform on strategic sectors in relation to the latest research findings, trends and policies through strategic fora, workshops, published findings and reports. How many staff does the MKI have, and what skills sets are covered by the staff complement? The entity has 40 staff members, layered as support, researchers, management and executive. The entity also sources experts from the academic and private sectors as and when the need arises to supplement our resources. What does the KZN Digital Transformation Strategy entail? The KZN Digital Transformation Strategy seeks to leverage digital technologies and innovation in transforming the KwaZulu-Natal economy and society. Elements were identified as the most immediate needs to be addressed by the province and were therefore elevated to the status of strategic priorities in order of preference for implementation. The priority focus areas for digitally transforming KwaZulu-Natal province include connectivity, digital skilling, information management and security, process automation, systems integration, the digitisation of government and knowledge management. What are the key priorities in the short term? Key priorities of the digital transformation strategy include connectivity, digital skilling and automation. We are already halfway there as a province in automation in government. Please give details on Digital Centres. Digital Centres are a catalyst in fast-tracking activity for economic development in rural and township areas. They provide key services to entrepreneurs and innovators to establish themselves and they make ICT infrastructure for digital skills development available. The objectives of the centres include providing access to information and infrastructure, ICT training and enterprise development, coordinating and supporting ideas about commercialisation, enhancing support for innovators and entrepreneurs, promoting innovation and technology activities and driving innovation at local government level. There are nine centres currently located in Umfolozi, Phongolo, Mandeni, Umdoni, Kokstad, Estcourt, Okhahlamba, eThekwini and Jozini. The last two are still being finalised. Is the MKI involved in the creation of Smart Cities? The creation of Smart Cities is the function of the local and district municipalities. The MKI focuses on the research and innovation promotion activities that allows those involved to operate effectively and to have possible inputs in the creation of Smart Cities. Is the MKI involved in the rollout of 500 hotspots around the province? The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA) and the province are responsible for connectivity. The MKI is involved in the research and innovation which requires the connective sites. The MKI also assists in identifying the digital skills required to push the agenda of digital transformation in societies. Is there a broader rural strategy into which the hubs and these other initiatives fall? The National Development Plan highlights that government must promote research, development and innovation. This filters into the provincial Growth and Development Strategy. MKI then receives this as a mandate and implements it accordingly. How active is MKI in supporting SMMEs? MKI has an enterprise development project that capacitates entrepreneurs on various modules covering the business – right from ideation to developing a business plan. This is not an accredited programme, but it is a capacity-building project to uplift the knowledge of the local entrepreneurs. We have about 50 or more small businesses to capacitate each year. Is there a particular focus on women and youth-run SMMEs? The MKI is all-encompassing and creates knowledge and develops capacity for all entities that require assistance, including women and youth. www.opportunityonline.co.za | 39