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Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) environment is dynamic and rapid technological development is changing how we communicate and access information and services. Separate frameworks have guided the development of the Telecommunications & Postal Services sector since 1994. These include White Papers on Broadcasting Policy, Telecommunications Policy and Postal services policy. These policy frameworks focused on addressing historical inequalities in access to basic services, while ensuring that all South Africans benefit from new services and access to new technologies and that ICTs are actively used to meet the development goals of the country. These policy frameworks reinforced the constitutional principle of equality and equal access to all communication services by all South Africans.
The ongoing technological changes and innovations that are envisaged in the future, coupled with the fact that most of the communication related policies were drawn up in the beginning phases of the country’s democracy, necessitate a review of these frameworks and the development of a new policy.
To this end, the Minister of Telecommunications & Postal Services has initiated an ICT Policy Review process to review current frameworks in order to develop a new policy, at least equal to those of the best in the world, is therefore both a necessity and an opportunity. The policy review should establish which current provisions have become redundant because of changes we have experienced; provisions that should be carried into the future, and new provisions that should be established to take the sector forward.
This policy review process is aimed at developing a new communications sector framework that further advances previous changes made in response to convergence. The review process will evaluate progress against the original objectives set out in the individual White Papers, policies and related laws in order to strengthen the overarching framework. It will also look at what new approaches are necessary to ensure our policies and frameworks are relevant to the changing environment and to individual, community and society’s social, economic, cultural, and development needs. The amended policy will consider how we could better promote the relevant and sustainable use of communications technologies and services to meet clearly identified needs.
We need to consider:
Government has already identified the communications sector as a critical growth sector. The National Development Plan (NDP) recognises that the ongoing development of quality communications infrastructure, services, content and applications, is key to the rapid economic, social and cultural development of the country.
The Minister of Telecommunications & Postal Services has since established a 22-member ICT Policy Review Panel, who were nominated following a call for public nominations. This Panel, working with closely with the leadership of the Department, will be recommending the best communications policy frameworks that will ensure that all South Africans take full advantage of the possibilities and opportunities created by convergence and digitisation of communications technologies. The new policy frameworks should ensure that we do not create a digital divide where access to quality communications services, technologies, infrastructure and content is not enjoyed by all South Africans.