1. The two day mission to Johannesburg/Pretoria on 14/16 May had two objectives: 1) To participate in the ICTD Strategy Task Force meeting that the Department of Communications (DoC) is leading with support from the Markle Foundation; 2) continued dialogue on the OS Resource Center with representatives of CSIR
2. The Task Force meeting took place on 15 May. A 170-page draft report, prepared by a local consultant recruited by DoC, was presented to task force members for comments. The discussion was open and most task force members contributed to the discussions. DoC brought in a new dimension by linking the upcoming �convergence� legislation with the work of the task force and finalisation of the strategy. A small working group that included UNDP and Markle captured feedback from task force members. A summary of the comments was presented to the overall group by UNDP at the end of the meeting.
3. In a nutshell, members agreed that the current draft needs more work and further editing. UNDP proposed that the final document should have two separate components, the strategy itself followed by the implementation guidelines and priorities. Also, the links between the strategy and development goals and objectives need to be strengthened. Finally, links between the micro and macro policy and programmes and inclusion of the urban poor and rural communities was suggested. The task force members endorsed these set of recommendations
4. DoC seems to now be focusing on the �convergence� law, which it is aiming to bring to parliament before the end of the year (see press announcement http://www.sdnp.undp.org/perl/news/articles.pl?do=gpage&id=5212&action=view). It sees a link with the ICTD strategy by stating that any strategy that does not have a basic regulatory basis will inevitable fail. The �convergence� law aims at reforming the current telecom law, initially passed in 1996, and revised in 2000. The goal is to identify all the �inhibitors� in the communications, broadcasting and related laws and propose to parliament the related amendments that will allow new ICTs to flourish.
5. DoC has requested assistance from UNDP and Markle to identify at least two international experts to help in the assessment of the current laws and the drafting of a new one that addresses all barriers and identify enablers. DoC is planning to have an international forum on the �:convergence� law in mid-July �right after the OAU meeting in Maputo. UNDP offered to assist DoC in the preparation of the next draft of the ICT strategy.
6. I also met with representatives of CSIR who have been working on OS for a few years. CSIR is the largest research and development institute in all of Africa and has keen interest on OS promotion. CSIR is actually going ahead and launching a national OS resource center with heavy support from its top management and the government. The minister of Public Service and Administration made a presentation to parliament on OS during the week of the mission (see http://www.sdnp.undp.org/perl/news/articles.pl?do=gpage&id=5215&action=view), a presentation that was prepared by CSIR. The idea is to enhance the CSIR center to a sub-regional one with the additional UNDP support. Additional details need to be worked out but contacts are now in place on both sides working together on the issues. The UNDP CO was also supportive of this idea. OS materials have been shared with the RR for info and additional support.
7. CSIR also expressed interest in supporting UNDP�s ICT for Development work at the sub-regional level. They are well aware of the SURF system and have actually dome some support work and workshop with the SURF in Addis. Although the concept is still basic, UNDP Pretoria also expressed interest on this. CSIR will be contacting the UNDP CO for follow-up.
Additional commentary on South Africa can be found in http://www.sdnp.undp.org/~raul/blog/archives/00000051.htm.