South African science minister welcomes approval of new science, technology and innovation policy

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The Minister of Science and Technology, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, has welcomed the approval by Cabinet of the new White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation, which sets the long-term policy direction to boost economic development and inclusive growth.  

The new White Paper, which identifies the Fourth Industrial Revolution as a key focus, places science, technology and innovation (STI) at the centre of South Africa's development agenda. 

Minister Kubayi-Ngubane is confident that, over the next 15 years, the new policy will chart a new path to unleashing South Africa's full potential towards growing the role of STI in a prosperous and inclusive society.  

"The approval by Cabinet positions the country to stand ready to reap the benefits of global developments such as rapid technological advancement and geopolitical and demographic shifts, while responding to the threats associated with some of these global trends," the Minister said.  

"Of all the technologies associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution, artificial intelligence is poised to have the most disruptive impact on the place of humans in economic production.  As such, this new policy gives us an opportunity to better prepare for what lies ahead and ensure that South Africa becomes one of the global centres of science, technology and innovation.    

"Our strategic priority is to invest in and leverage science and technology as instruments for growth that can be sustained in the long run to defeat poverty," Minister Kubayi-Ngubane said.  

Since the adoption of the first White Paper on Science and Technology in 1996, South Africa has made significant progress in growing its national system of innovation.  However, while the country has come a long way since then, a new White Paper had become vital to respond adequately to future we want to build.  

Reviews of our national system of innovation have revealed that the system is not inclusive.  For example, the number of women, particularly black women, in research, science, technology and innovation is very low.  

"This is one of the most pressing issues that this policy seeks to deal with," the Minister said, adding: "Society as a whole needs to embrace scientific research as an important element of creating a better world characterised by low unemployment and reduced poverty and inequality."  

The new White Paper, which will replace the 1996 White Paper on Science and Technology, aligns and advances the objectives of the government's National Development Plan (NDP). 

"I would like to thank the team under the Director-General of Science and Technology, Dr Phil Mjwara, that worked on this policy document, the international experts for their valuable contributions, and the many people who participated in the public consultation process.  I am confident that this policy document reflects the aspirations of South Africans with regard to science, technology and innovation," said the Minister.  

Cabinet announced its approval of the new policy following Thursday's Cabinet meeting, stating:  "Science and innovation often heralds a different way of doing things and allows us to deal with longstanding challenges in a decisive and cost-effective manner.  To tap into these benefits, Cabinet approved the 2019 White Paper on STI, which sets the long-term policy direction for a growing role for STI.  

"With the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, STI will position us to take advantage of rapid technological advancements," the Cabinet statement continued.  "The proposals in this White Paper seek to address policy coherence, development of human capabilities, knowledge expansion, innovation performance, and increased investment.  These policy proposals will form the basis of the development of decadal plans involving all the relevant stakeholders."  

The new White Paper focuses on the following:

  • Raising the profile of STI in South Africa by instilling an innovation culture and integrating STI into cross-cutting government planning at the highest levels.
  • Strengthening partnerships between business, government, academia and civil society, and creating a more enabling environment for STI.
  • Focusing on innovation for social benefit and fundamental economic transformation.
  • Expanding and transforming the human resource base of the national system of innovation.
  • Increasing investment, both public and private, in STI. 

The Department of Science and Technology will now embark on a process to develop a decadal plan for STI which will serve as an implementation plan for the White Paper over the period 2019 to 2029.  

The decadal plan will take into consideration not only the White Paper, but also a review of the Ten-Year Innovation Plan (2008-2018), which has seen the attainment of significant milestones, as well as the results of a foresight exercise conducted in 2018 by the National Advisory Council on Innovation. 

This release was first published 15 March 2019 by the South African Department for Science & Technology 


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