Department of Science and Innovation
The science and innovation department’s science, technology and innovation (STI) missions and priority areas for the next 10 years will be detailed in a Decadal Plan to be finalised and approved in 2020/21.
The higher education, science and innovation minister, Blade Nzimande, announced this in the Science and Innovation Department Budget Vote 2020/21 in parliament.
The minister added that the overarching goal of the Decadal Plan is to increase the contribution of the national system of innovation (NSI) to the achievement of South Africa’s national objectives.
“This will be done by enhancing innovation and experimentation, and by accelerating the use of tried and tested approaches to successfully introduce innovation for transformative social and economic change,” he said.
According to the minister, the 2019 White Paper on STI, to be implemented through a Decadal Plan 2020-2030, is the “principal policy guiding the NSI and commits the country to furthering the role of STI in economic and social development, emphasising the core themes of inclusivity, transformation and partnerships”.
The minister also indicated that the Higher Education, Science, Technology and Innovation Institutional Landscape review is “currently being conducted to determine the future direction and infrastructure requirements of the country’s post school education and STI landscape”.
A Ministerial Structure on STI is also to be set up comprising the ministers of STI-intensive departments, cluster chairs, national treasury and the department of performance, monitoring and evaluation.
During the higher education and training budget vote 2020/21, the minister indicated that the department was working with the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and institutions on policy amendments that will allow for the NSFAS learning materials allowance to be utilised at all institutions to purchase devices for first-time entering NSFAS students in future.
The policy change will be in place for 2021.
Moderated by Treasury and managed by the NSFAS, the department is finalising the process to appoint service provider/s for the provision of electronic devices, particularly laptops to NSFAS funded students.
The minister also announced that the “Ministerial Task Team on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) has now completed its work to provide critical policy advice on how our Post-School Education and Training (PSET) system should respond to opportunities and challenges presented by the 4IR”.
The report will be released for comment prior to recommendations to cabinet.
Other developments include that the report of the Ministerial Task Team on the Recruitment, Retention and Progression of Black South African Academics has concluded its work and the report approved for public release; a Ministerial Task Team on the remuneration of Vice-Chancellors and Senior Executives has been appointed with findings by 31 March 2021; a Ministerial Task Team appointed to conduct an Independent Review of the University of South Africa; review of the Higher Education Act underway to assist amongst others to deal with governance collapses in some institutions; revised Language Policy Framework for the Public Higher Education Institutions to soon be published in the Government Gazette – ensure the development and strengthening of historically marginalized South African indigenous languages as languages of scholarship, teaching and learning and communication and Draft Central Application Service Bill to be finalised for tabling in parliament.
Meanwhile, in a statement, the science and innovation department announced the development by students of computer software designed to help effective service delivery.
The students participated in the Data Science for Impact and Decision Enablement (DSIDE) programme from December 2019 to January 2020.
DSIDE, funded by the department and hosted at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, targets higher education students in disciplines such as physics, mathematics and computing to support capacity building in the fast-growing field of data science.
The students are using data from Twitter to understand people’s views on service delivery.
The project can be used to analyse and model different aspects and scenarios, for example, the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on service delivery.