MTHATHA, SOUTH AFRICA, Broadband has the potential to transform rural economies to overcome many of the challenges of distance and isolation, says Deputy South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Speaking at the OR Tambo Broadband Project launch in the Mhlontlo and King Sabata Dalindyebo municipalities in Eastern Cape Province over the weekend, he said the project was of great significance for the country as a whole.

With broadband, farmers will be able to check the prices of the goods they produce almost anywhere in the world and to track weather patterns using information technology. Broadband provides them with information, access and choice. More than that, broadband creates the potential for the emergence of new industries in rural areas,” Ramaphosa said.

In many of the sectors of the economy that are undergoing rapid change as a result of the fourth industrial revolution, it is possible to provide services to global clients from almost anywhere, be it Mumbai, Mombasa, Munich or Mhlontlo. Broadband provides opportunities to improve the provision of services to communities. Universal access to broadband is critical to inclusive economic growth, he said.

He said the launch of the project marked a milestone in the government’s efforts to ensure access by all communities in urban and rural settings to broadband internet and information technology.

This is a priority for government because technology holds the key to economic freedom. Technology provides us with a powerful tool in our struggle to overcome the legacy of apartheid dispossession and exploitation, to address our skills deficit, to create jobs and to eradicate poverty, he stressed

The roll-out of broadband throughout South Africa would also facilitate the delivery of many government services digitally, and wouldfacilitate the expansion of e-government, Ramaphosa said, adding that broadband was being rolled out first in schools and clinics, and that e-health solutions would be available at all government health clinics, improving both productivity and the quality of care.

We are only beginning to appreciate the massive potential of technology in improving the quality, affordability and outcomes of education,” he said, adding that with effective application, alongside a firm commitment to learning and teaching, information technology could trigger a skills revolution.