Thank you Program Director, Ministers and Deputy Ministers Present, Honorable Premiers, MEC’s from our Provinces, Executive Mayors of our Metros and District Municipalities, Chairpersons and CEO’s of our SOC’s, Senior government officials, Ladies and gentlemen, Greetings to you all.
I must firstly speak to the discussions I have been having with our Deputy Minister’s present today and the need for them to play a more active role in the functioning of SIP-15. We have seen it fit that they must form a committee which meets more regularly than this platform to assess progress on the programmes and find ways to unlock challenges that exist. This will enable us to focus on critical challenges whenever we meet and build up on the work they have done. As we employ this new method of running SIP-15, the CSIR will continue to play a coordinating role supported by staff of the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services.
We anticipate this will enable us to work more efficiently. The main purpose of today’s meeting is to share experiences on how best we can unlock the challenges we face in the implementation of our various broadband initiatives. SIP-15 was formed in 2012 with a specific focus on broadband. There have been numerous changes in how we approach broadband implementation based on our performance as measured by the Presidential Infrastructure Coordination Commission (PICC). We are now charged to focus on those areas where we have not been performing as has been expected from us to improve the outcomes that will change the lives of ordinary South Africans. In today’s meeting we will get a brief on the progress of our various broadband rollout programmes and the challenges which have been causing the delays. For instance, the President made an announcement on broadband rollout in the 8 Districts. We will get an update on why there has been a huge delay. These updates will enable us to collectively take decisions on the best solutions that will speed up the delivery. We have finalised the business case for the remaining Districts in the past year.
We need to get the progress on what has been done to take these plans forward and any challenges which may exist. Last year Cabinet took a decision that we must encourage municipalities to rollout Wi-Fi as a basic form of internet access. This comes as we encourage those municipalities which have the capacity to consider rolling our broadband. We hope our discussions can touch on how these initiatives can be expanded and unlock the challenges where they exist. We have provided support to the Metros and we will explore means through which we can assist other municipalities. We have to look at the funding model for the Wi-Fi rollout and draw lessons which will assist future rollout initiatives around the country. We are happy that 6 Metros have made considerable progress in implementing this Wi-Fi project. I am aware that eThekwini and Buffalo City still need to catch up with the rest of the Metros. We have engaged with the Mayors and they have indicated the challenges they are facing and we understand they are working towards ensuring they catch-up. The ICT Policy Review is going to have a huge impact on how we approach broadband rollout initiatives. We urge you to keep track on that process even though we will not deal with those issues at length today. The Department is open to sharing those documents with you so that you can assist with inputs towards improving the policy. However, we will touch on one element of the policy review which is the proposed Rapid Deployment policy for ICT’s.
The key principles of this policy will be explained during today’s presentations. If we are to unlock the challenges in the deployment of infrastructure by the private sector, this is one policy that we need to fully understand. This policy will require cooperation between the three spheres of government for its effective implementation. Funding is always a challenge noting the tough economic climate. I hope as we wind down the discussions you will offer your proposals on how best we can fund these initiatives. We have been working with the Minister of Finance on how we can finance this infrastructure with current proposals speaking to us engaging our development finance institutions, using the private sector markets and exploring international institutions such as the New Development Bank and our BRICS partners.
Your views on how we can collectively approach the current funding challenges would be most appreciated. We should acknowledge that Gauteng and the Western Cape are doing well in implementing their broadband plans. I am expecting representatives from these provinces to contribute positively to our discussions by sharing their success stories particularly on how they have overcome challenges in their implementation. We require that they also share their statistical information to ensure that in our report back sessions with the Premiers and the President we are able to present accurate information. We must be aware that Gauteng and the Western Cape are doing well because they have planned their programmes and they have allocated resources from their provincial budgets. I know that other provinces might have competing interests but we are urging that MEC’s should start discussions with their Premiers on how best funding can be leveraged for broadband initiatives. We must learn from what Gauteng and the Western Cape have done.
We must always try and align our broadband initiatives to our national broadband policy South Africa Connect. There are a lot of other initiatives such as the Universal Service Obligations under the custody of ICASA. I must urge ICASA that we need to align these obligations to SA Connect and other priority programmes of government. If we are to continue with the outdated obligations we may not meet our overall national objectives. In certain areas operators provide basic 250kb/s connections when SA Connect speaks to 10mb/s. The other challenge on these Universal Service Obligations is who takes over the maintenance of infrastructure and the process to be followed. Are beneficiaries such as schools informed when the operators no longer maintain the infrastructure or at the planning stage?
These are the questions we need to start answering. I must also indicate that we need to discuss the impact of crime to our broadband rollout with respect to the vandalism in our schools. In certain provinces these gangs literally break down walls at schools to steal laptops and tablets meant for school connectivity. This is a challenge because our records may show that a school is connected when in fact it no longer has a connection. Some school teachers and principals resort hiding these resources at their homes which is not acceptable. We need to collectively deal with this ill like the copper theft we have been experiencing. We should even consider a mechanism through which SITA and the CSIR can render the devices useless once they have been stolen.
Maybe we can find out how far this programme has gone. We have so much faith in the expertise of our research institutions and SOC’s as the experts to work with us to find solutions to these challenges. I thought I should raise these few issues to streamline our discussions. I will allow a limited amount of lamenting and mourning but I am more interested in suggestions on what should be the way forward.
Thank you very much.