The Presidency is to lead a Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) “Plenary meeting” involving major sectors of South African government and society, Science and Technology Minister (Ms) MT Kubayi-Ngubane told the media on Monday. No date for the meeting was given.
“South Africa needs to set its innovation agenda at the highest level of government and business so that all actors pursue the same objectives and pool resources where possible,” she said. “The Presidency will therefore chair an STI Plenary meeting, involving business leaders, academic experts in the field of STI, government departments that have a focus on STI, and leaders from civil society. Among other matters, the STI Plenary will discuss STI priorities.”
The Minister was publicly launching the Department of Science and Technology’s draft White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation. This is intended to replace its original White Paper on Science and Technology, adopted in 1996.
“The new document will ensure a growing role for STI in building a more prosperous and inclusive society,” she assured. “It focuses on using STI to accelerate inclusive economic growth, make the economy more competitive and improve people’s everyday lives.”
She reported that there had been good progress in implementing the 1996 White Paper, but that the country had not benefitted fully from the potential provided by STI to fufil the aims of the National Development Plan. She cited the “institutional landscape” as an example. While it had grown, while the number of publications had increased three-fold, while the numbers of black and women researchers had increased significantly and PhD graduation rates had increased, “challenges remain, and the national system of innovation is still not fully inclusive.”
Moreover, the world had changed since 1996. There was now the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which was swiftly changing human interactions, transactions and learning. Automation and digitisation were increasing. A new policy document was needed to allow South Africa to participate effectively in this new world.
“The new draft policy focuses on two main goals, namely, to ensure that South Africa benefits from STI for economic growth, social development and transformation, and to respond to the risk and opportunities brought by rapid global technological advancement and other global challenges,” explained Kubayi-Ngubane. “The new draft White Paper has considered a number of megatrends spanning the geopolitical, economic, social, technological and environmental spheres. These megatrends include a growing population, increased consumption driven by an expanding middle class in emerging economies, the rise of China and India, and the impact on the natural environment.”