Speech delivered by Deputy Minister Elizabeth Thabethe at the launch of Google South Africa Woza Online at the Innovation Hub, Lynnwood, Pretoria

Programme Director,
Leadership of Google South Africa
Leadership of SMME sector
Distinguished guests
Ladies and gentlemenThe mid-20th Century ushered in tools (Computer and Internet) that redefined the way society communicated. The introduction of these tools also presented new opportunities which saw ICT institutions such as Google being born. Innovation and creativity characterized the information age.

In this day and age, the ICT sector has become a critical part of modern economies. The development of the ICT sector has improved global communication and reduced the cost of communication. With tools such as the Internet the globe has shrunk and business communication has improved drastically.

One of the significant developments of the ICT age, is increased access to services. According to McKinsey Study, internet enables economic opportunity and has already fostered significant growth for economies around the world. In the South African context,  the Internet will create jobs and foster economic growth in our country.

The South African government is strongly committed to supporting SMME development, as demonstrated in a range of strategies and policies, including the Integrated Small Enterprise Development Strategy and the National Small Business Act. The primary focus is on increasing the number of new ventures and supporting the survival and growth of existing SMMEs. South Africa’s estimated 2.8 million SMMEs contribute between 52% and 57% to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and provide about 61% of employment . SMME development is therefore critical for driving employment, economic growth and stability.

Consistent with global economic trends, SMMEs remain key drivers of economic growth and development. According to ABSA November 2011 Report, SMMEs contribute more than 40% of country’s total remuneration. Our preoccupation should be on how do we ensure increased market reach for SMMEs so that they expand.

The conception and introduction of Woza Online seeks to remove the barriers that stop small businesses from getting online by making it quick, easy and free to set up a website. We should appreciate the innovative thinking that has preceded the conception of this idea.

Together we must capitalize on the potential of the digital economy. I am encouraging SMMEs to utilize this tool and for South Africans to surf this site in search for services and products from a plethora of SMMEs.

They need to actively engage in the process of searching and identifying suitable related technologies for their enterprises. They need to set trends and educate themselves in order to set best practices. Woza Online is critical in ensuring increased market access for SMMEs.

I thank you.

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