Draft 1! Work-in-Progress, Pending Further Consultation
Portfolio Committee on Communications
Draft Strategy and Programme for the Department of Communications for the Period until the 2014 Elections
20 August 2013
1. Status of this Paper
1.1. This is a draft and is somewhat incomplete. It will be finalized shortly following further consultations with you, and other stakeholders in the sector.
1.2. This paper sets out the broad strategy and programme and broad deadlines to achieve certain targets. We are still in discussion with key stakeholders, not least the state-owned companies (SOCs), to finalise more precise deadlines, and will do so shortly.
2. Broader Political Framework
2.1. The broad DOC strategy and programme for the August-May period has to be located within the framework of the National Development Plan (NDP), as contested as it is in parts, New Growth Path (NGP), relevant existing government policies. This paper focuses only on the period from now until the 2014 elections, but, obviously, whatever we do in this period, needs to relate to, and where necessary, set the basis for far more effective service delivery in the 2014-2019 term.
2.2.The ICT sector has a key role to play in the country’s economic growth, development and job-creation goals.
3.The Present Communications Terrain
3.1.Below is a very brief sketch of key aspects of the Communications terrain at present.
3.2.The DoC has been going through a challenging time in the recent period, and in some senses, for quite some time, and is relatively weak and divided. There is an inclination among the senior managers to settle old scores and create new spaces for influence in the current period. There are accusations, often in the public domain, of some officials committing offenses but concrete evidence in this regard is often inadequate. We are very clear that corruption must be rooted out, but we also need to be sensitive to how officials are smeared with false accusations of corruption as part of the feuds over power and hegemony in the department. We are aiming to secure greater unity and coherence of the Department and making it more effective, part of which entails tackling corruption very decisively. So let us be very clear: corruption is out in all its forms, including falsely accusing officials with the aim of destroying them to advance the narrow self-interests of the accusers! Yes, the Department is challenged in several ways. And if it is not as good as it should be, it is certainly not as bad as is made out in the public domain. It needs to be stressed that while, overall, the Department is challenged, it does have skills and experience, and potential that needs to be harnessed to ensure that it is far more effective. In short, for all its inadequacies, the department is certainly capable of doing better.
3.3.Director General Rosey Sekese won her case against the previous Minister in the Labour Court. For a variety of reasons, including the legal case she won, the need to avoid paying out senior officials unnecessarily, the court challenges that might follow, the limited period left before the elections, the time it takes to appoint a new DG, the work effort of the current DG and the increasing willingness of most of the senior managers (even if some of them grudgingly) to work with her, it has been decided for now by the Minister and Deputy Minister to leave Ms Sekese as the DG until the elections, after which the incoming executive can review this decision, if it is necessary. Negotiations with the DG on delegation of powers and functions to her have begun but not been completed because:
3.3.1 There are outstanding issues between the DG and the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee that need to be addressed.
3.3.2 There are some questions relating to consistency with the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) of some of the DoC decisions taken that are being investigated that need to be finalized.
As soon as these above matters are finalized, shortly, final decisions will be taken about the role of the DG.
In respect of some of the issues raised by the Portfolio Committee previously, it has to be pointed out that Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and the Chief State Law Advisor, Adv Enver Daniels, were consulted, and they both confirm that there are no investigations being undertaken into the DG’s behavior.
3.4. As is well-known, the SOCs and other entities falling within this portfolio have capacity, resource and other challenges.
3.5. The trade unions in the sector are not as strong as they should be.
3.6. The most vocal and prominent NGOs in the sector find the government inadequate in our performance and often challenge us in different forms.
3.7. The potential for community media is not being sufficiently developed.
3.8.As a whole, however, while the Communications sector is challenged for a variety of structural and other objective reasons and also subjective reasons, there is sufficient potential, and certainly more than is made out in the public domain, for the Communications sector to contribute far more effectively to the country’s economic growth, development and job-creation goals.
3.9.But clearly government cannot do it alone. We need the active participation of parliament, business, NGOs, CBOs and other sections of civil society including technical experts and ordinary people.
4. Consultations within the Communications Sector for the Past 5 Weeks
4.1. There have been exchanges with a wide range of stakeholders in the Communications sector over the past 5 weeks to consider what we should prioritise in the limited period ahead until the 2014 elections, and over the 2014-2019 term, and to consider what role they can play in meeting important goals. These exchanges have included the SOCs, Telkom, ICASA, mobile operators, broadcasters, SANEF (South African Editors Forum) trade unions, business, NGOs, technical experts, and individual commentators.
4.2. Meetings have been held with the senior managers and the staff generally of the Department to hear what they have to say and to make it clear that the Deputy Minister and I will be exercising stringent strategic and political oversight of the Department.
4.3. The focus here will be on the SOCs, ICASA and Telkom as key entities within our portfolio. These meetings were mainly to hear what they had to say about where they are and what support they wanted from DoC, and to also communicate that we intend to be very active in our engagement with them within the Constitutional and legal framework that defines our role.
4.4. There have been 2 meetings with the SABC Board and management, and one with the staff and trade unions. A Joint Task Team (JTT) comprising the SABC, the AG’s Office, National Treasury and DoC has been established to among other issues deal with:
4.4.1 Finalising the shareholder compact.
4.4.2 Finalising key managerial positions.
4.4.3 Progress on Digital Migration.
4.4.4 The financial sustainability of the SABC.
4.4.5 The location of the 24-hour News Channel in the overall strategy of the SABC.
4.5. With due recognition of its independence, a meeting was held with the council, management and staff of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to see what support can be offered to ensure that it is more effective and discuss various other issues.
4.6. Of course, Telkom is a listed company, but government is a major shareholder and policy maker, and we need to manage these two roles in ways that are consistent with corporate governance principles and norms. We met with the Chairperson and CEO to discuss various issues.
4.7. We met the Board and Management of the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA) and stressed the need for them to use their limited resources more productively and function more effectively. We urged that the disciplinary and other issues relating to allegations of misconduct be dealt with swiftly. We also discussed the need for greater cooperation between DoC and USAASA, especially on school connectivity and Broadband. USAASA will also need to cooperate effectively with SAPO on the distribution of the subsidy on the Set Top Boxes (STBs). A JTT has been set up to take issues forward.
4.8.A meeting was held with the ICT Policy Review Panel to get a report on progress and set firmer deadlines. We committed to providing more resources and other support to ensure that the Panel is able to function better and quicker
4.9.We met with the South African Post Office (SAPO) and dealt with the need to finalise the Board vacancies, declines in the use of mail services, ICASA regulations relating to SAPO’s market and expected financial losses. A JTT has been established to address these issues.
4.10. We met with Sentech and discussed the need for more effective cooperation with the SABC. We stressed that all key vacancies should be filled as soon as possible and that we would assist with the process. Sentech are to launch in FreeVision, a digital satellite platform in September. It will initially air the SABC Free to Air channels as well as the eTV 24 hour news channel.
4.11. At our meeting with the National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa (NEMISA), we discussed the transfer of the DoC e-Skills Unit to NEMISA and the merger with the Institute of Software Satellite Application. We also agreed to assist with their budgetary constraints to the extent possible.
4.12. We met with the Domain Name of South Africa (.zadNA) and agreed to assist with the finalization of the .zadNA Board. We also decided to meet with the ZACR (ZA Central Registry), which administers the central registry for domain names, to discuss their business model soon.
4.13. Over the next few weeks we will also be meeting a wide range of stakeholders, who will also be asked to comment on some of the key ideas in this draft document. By the end of this week we will have met all the cellphone service providers.
4.14. We have made it clear to the SOCs that we will provide clearer shareholder compacts for them and exercise more stringent oversight over them.
4.15.There is no endless populism here. After having consulted a fair range and number of the stakeholders, we will be decisive.
5. Broad DoC Strategy
5.1. As explained above, we will work within the frameworks provided in the NDP (contested though parts of it are), NGP, and the relevant government ICT policies adopted since 1994.
5.2. Our overall strategy has 6 key aspects for now:
5.2.1 A more effective DoC: We are working on greater unity and coherence of the Department of Communication (DoC), filling in the critical vacant posts, and ensuring the Department functions in a more consensual way with ICT stakeholders and is more sensitive to the needs of consumers. Where there are genuine cases of corruption, and not smears and false accusations used to settle conflicts of power and hegemony within the department, we will act decisively within the law. Clearly, DoC can and must perform better. A major aim is to put DoC on a firmer foundation to perform better during the 2014-2019 term.
5.2.2 Less fragmented and fractious ICT Sector: The ICT sector is too fragmented and fractious. Of course, there are the inevitable differences and fierce competition, but there is still space, despite the huge challenges, for a more consensual and cooperative terrain to be forged over time, and we can make some progress in this regard in the period up till the elections.
5.2.3 Realistic and realizable goals in programme for period until 2014 Elections: With the 2014 elections looming, we have about 8 months left before the end of our term. We are reviewing the Annual Performance Plan (APP) of the Department and setting realistic and realisable targets for the next 8 months. (This is set out in greater detail in the programme in Section 6 below.)
5.2.4 Firmer foundation for more effective service delivery in 2014-2019 term: But, importantly, we have to be strategic about what targets we choose for the 8 months ahead. They cannot just be ad hoc. They need to be linked to both creating a much firmer foundation for the next five-year term for faster ICT delivery and providing key elements of a 2014-2019 strategic framework.
5.2.5 Finalising the ICT Policy Review: The National Integrated ICT Policy Review has to be finalized as soon as possible.
5.2.6 NDP and NGP provide the framework: The ICT Policy Review and the strategy, programmes, projects and activities of DoC must be located within the framework provided by the NDP and NGP.
6.1.So what are key aspects of the programme up till the 2014 elections? The APP will continue to be implemented. However, certain key aspects of the programme will be prioritized and where possible fast-tracked to the extent possible in difficult circumstances.
6.1.1 Broadband Policy, Strategy and Plan: There has to be significant and realistic progress in broadband becoming more extensive, affordable and speedier. DoC completed a Draft Broadband Policy yesterday and the Draft Broadband Strategy and Plan will be completed by the end of September. However we will still have to discuss the Policy, Strategy and Plan with other relevant government departments before we take it to Cabinet. We intend to finalise the process by the end of November.
6.1.2 Develop an Effective Spectrum Policy: A Spectrum Policy to facilitate the deployment of wireless technologies in support of universal access and economic development will be developed by March 2014. Consistent with rolling-out Broadband, we will finalise our policy including high demand spectrum for Broadband.
6.1.3 Furthering Reducing the Costs to Communicate: We have to sensibly and sensitively set a firm foundation for a further reduction in the costs of communication. The needs of the users and the service providers will both be taken into account. A new policy directive on transparent pricing policy will be finalized by the end of September. By the end of September we will be convening a pricing workshop as part of a consultative process on the cost-to-communicate. We are also engaging ICASA on their reviewing of Mobile Termination Rates.
6.1.4 Beginning the Roll-Out of Digital Migration: We have had several meetings with the broadcasters and other stakeholders in this regard. SENTECH has already provided about 80% of the country with the network for Digital Terrestrial Television and intends to reach 84% by March 2014. The remaining 16% of the country that cannot be accessed by the terrestrial network because of their geographic character will be serviced by satellite. The major stumbling block to progress are the disputes about whether the Set Top Boxes (STBs) should have “Control” or not. We have met the contending parties separately and have encouraged them to meet together, but there has not been much progress. We have therefore decided to bring the contending parties together by mid-September with a consensually agreed facilitator who combines technical expertise and negotiating skills to, under the broad supervision of the Ministry, work towards consensus on STB issues. Yes, as government we accept our share of responsibility for the delays in digital migration, but unless we get a measure of consensus among the broadcasters and other contending parties we are not going to be able to move swiftly forward. Provided we get consensus among the contending parties, we will be able to begin the roll-out digital migration within the next few months. However, if we fail to get consensus, we will of course go ahead after having considered all views.
6.1.5 Greater focus on the rural and other underserviced areas: The digital divide between the haves and have-nots needs to be reduced, and we are going to place much greater stress on delivering in rural and underserviced areas. We intend to connect 788 schools by the end of the financial year. This figure will be higher if our current negotiations with some of the operators on implementing their universal service obligations go well. SAPO has also committed to building 50 new post offices by the end of the financial year. The project on the National Address System will also be taken significantly forward. Discussions have already begun with the DoC, Statistician-General, CoGTA and SALGA on this matter.
6.1.6 Towards Greater Stability in the SOCs: The SABC and other SOCs and public entities in the ICT sector need to be made far more stable and effective. They need to be properly resourced, bearing in mind major budgetary and other constraints, but related to this, they have to use their available resources more productively. They also have to be more skilled. Joint Task Teams (JTTs) have been established with most of them including representatives of the SOCs, DoCs and other relevant structures. Without interfering with their operational autonomy, and consistent with corporate governance rules and norms, we will, as the shareholder, be providing clearer shareholder compacts and exercising more stringent oversight of the SOCs.
6.1.7 Corporatisation of Postbank: Among the key issues to be addressed are: the Postbank Amendments Bill and South African Post Office Amendment Bill that are before Parliament; and the finalization of the licence issues and the Board members.
6.1.8 ICT Policy Review: A National Integrated ICT Policy Green Paper will be ready within 3 months. Public hearings will follow and a White Paper will be finalized either shortly before the 2014 elections or soon thereafter. Our programmes and activities will, to the extent possible, feed into and take into account the emerging Integrated ICT Policy.
6.1.9 National ICT Forum: A National ICT Forum bringing together government, the industry, trade unions, and other civil society roleplayers will be held in late November or early in 2014.
6.1.10 Community Media: There are about 133 licenced community radio stations which account for about 25% of the total radio listenership in the country. More needs to be done to support community media and the department will finalise a new Community Broadcasting Support Policy by the end of the financial year.
6.1.11 Legislation: Of course, we recognize that the parliamentary terms are brief in view of the elections, but we hope that the 4 Bills before Parliament will be processed before the 2014 elections. These are the Electronic Communications Amendment Bill, ICASA Amendment Bill, South African Post Office Amendment Bill, and the Postbank Amendment Bill.
7. Role of the Portfolio Committee
7.1. We take the NA and NCOP Communications Committee very seriously, and urge that you hold us effectively to account and exercise rigorous oversight of us. If we are to fulfill our role effectively, it is crucial that we have strong and active NA and NCOP parliamentary committees.
8. Let’s just get things done!
8.1. Government cannot do it alone! We need a strong and effective parliament, more functional SOCs and other public entities in the Communications sector, active NGOs and other structures in civil society, a vigorous media and a mobilized public to achive significant progress. We are keen to work with all of you, and urge you to engage with us.
8.2. Of course, there is much to do and with the elections looming, very limited time, and we may not be able to get all that we want to do done. But we should certainly try. And we most certainly will! While we will seek to get as much done as possible in the period until the elections, the main aim, ultimately, is to set a firmer foundation for the Communications sector to deliver far more effectively in the 2014-19 term.
Invitation for nominations of non-executive directors to the board of South African Post Office (SAPO)
The Minister of Communications: Yunus Carrim hereby invite interested persons, in terms of section 11(1)(a) of the South African Post Office SOC Ltd Act of 2011 to submit names of persons fit to be appointed as members of the Board of SAPO, with due regard to section 8 (5) of the same Act
Written nomination letter must contain the following:
In respect of the nominator:
In respect of nominee:
Experience in corporate governance, board experience and participation at strategic leadership level.
Nominations must be addressed to Mr. Jomo Masango at; Private Bag X 860, Pretoria, 0001 or email to
The following expertise will be taken into consideration in appointing the Board of Directors:
proven skills, knowledge, qualifications and experience of a candidate in areas of-
Representivity will be considered with regard to the demographics of the country, including people with disabilities, gender and diversity in culture and language.
Note well: Nominees who meet the fitness and propriety requirement as contemplated in the Banks Act, 1990, would be at an advantage.
All Directors will serve on a part-time basis.
CLOSING DATE FOR NOMINATION: 25 September 2013
Hosting National Preparatory Working Group (NPWG) for the World Radiocommunication Conference
The World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) is held by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to review and revise the Radio Regulations, the international treaty governing the use of the radio-frequency spectrum and the geostationary-satellite and non-geostationary-satellite orbits. It is held every three to four years. The WRC aims for reaching consensus on various changes in the Regulations to harmonise spectrum use on a global scale.
The changes to the ITU Radio Regulations will result in changes and/or updates to our spectrum plan and possible changes to policies and regulatory matters that may affect allocations to over 40 radiocommunication services and technical, operational and regulatory conditions for the use of the radio frequency spectrum and satellite orbits.
The key role of NPWG or National Preparatory Working Group for the World Radiocommunication Conference is to develop South Africa’s position on WRC-15 agenda items. Membership of the NPWG includes representative from the industry, government agencies and other spectrum users.
Members of the public who have interest in the use of radio spectrum and satellite orbital are strongly encouraged to participate in the NPWG.
The meeting invite for the NWPG has been sent to the interested sector members. The meeting will be held on the 05 September 2013, any change to the date will be communicated through email to all the interested sector members.
Venue: Tshwane (Specific details to follow)
Minister of Communications
Southern Africa Telecommunication Networks and Applications Conference (SATNAC) Conference
CONFERENCE ON BROADBAND - A CATALYST FOR SUSTAINABLE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND PROMOTING DIGITAL INCLUSION
2 September 2013
Congratulations on Centres of Excellence Programme and SATNAC Annual Conferences
Let me, in the first instance, thank you inviting me to this Conference and say I am very pleased to be here. And let me immediately congratulate Telkom on its Centres of Excellence (CoE) programme of which this annual SATNAC conference is a part. This Conference, I am told, is the only conference of its kind in the world that brings together industry leaders, academia and post-graduate students. The range and quality of speakers you have at the Conference is certainly impressive.
The CoE programme and this Annual Conference are an important opportunity for and source of encouragement to young people in the ICT sector, and on behalf of government I express appreciation to all the industry players who not only fund the programme, but play an active role in its implementation.
Consistent with your Conference theme, I will speak on Broadband and have titled the topic of my input today, “South Africa’s Broadband Policy – Too many Delays, Now for Progress Together”.
National Broadband Plans Matter
The past twenty years has been an extraordinary time for the development of ICT and specifically for the mobile communications industry. The mobile revolution has brought many benefits of the modern ICT industry to billions of people.
The next crucial step is to replicate the mobile miracle for broadband in South Africa. Most of our population still have no access to the Internet at all, let alone a broadband connection.
Broadband is not just about high-speed Internet connectivity and accessing more data faster. Broadband is a set of transformative technologies which is fundamentally changing the way we live – and which has a crucial to play in sustainable economic and social growth.
Of course, the Internet has changed the way people live, work, learn and play. The Broadband Commission for Digital Migration report on “Why National Broadband Plans Matter”, done in cooperation with the International Telecommunication Union, and Cisco makes it clear that countries benefit significantly from a Broadband Plan and reinforces the need for us to finalise our Broadband policy in South Africa urgently.
Research done by the Commission shows that countries with a National Broadband Plan have fixed broadband penetration 8.7% higher and mobile broadband penetration 7.4% higher on average than countries without plans. The report reveals that competition also plays a crucial role in improving broadband penetration. Competitive markets are linked to broadband penetration levels that are 1.4% higher on average for fixed broadband and up to 26.5% higher on average for mobile broadband. By mid-2013, the report reveals, there were 134 national broadband plans worldwide. According to the report, mobile broadband subscriptions in Sri Lanka cost as little $US3 for 3 GB in early 2012. Now just think of that! Compared to in our country….
As government we are also interested in how a Broadband Plan would improve the access of citizens to affordable services. We last week hosted an inter-departmental workshop on the ICT Policy Review that is aimed at producing a National Integrated ICT Policy Green Paper soon. One of the key issues that emerged from the workshop is the relationship between effective delivery of services such as education and health, for example, and the provision of broadband.
The economic and social benefits of broadband are more likely to be realised when there is strong collaboration between government and industry. The question obviously arises as to whether or not the industry has kept prices artificially too high, rather than lowering them to enable greater access by more South Africans, which in turn will benefit the whole economy and ultimately the mobile operators too? Surely when cellphone penetration in our country is greater than 100% more citizens should be able to access the internet? Shouldn’t the industry do more ensure that we achieve the targets set by the Broadband Commission?
As you know, a sustainable future can be created through the proliferation of ICT and broadband. Good examples would include smart grids, environmental sensors, intelligent transport systems, dematerialization and the digitalization of goods and services, and new ways of improving energy efficiency, all of which helps to foster the transition to a low carbon economy and ensure more effective climate adaption.
Global Broadband Targets
The Broadband Commission for Digital Development has set a number of targets for 2015 aimed at making broadband policy universal, reducing costs and increasing access.
This includes the target that all countries should have a national broadband plan which should include definitions for universal access or service, and more affordable broadband with entry-level broadband services made available in developing countries through adequate regulation and market forces. The cost should be less than 5 percent of average monthly income. In 49 countries, mainly in the developed world, broadband access in 2010 cost less than 2% of average income.
Another target is that 40 percent of households in developing countries should have Internet access. Internet access at home is the most inclusive way of bringing people online.
A third set of targets is that Internet-user penetration should reach 60 percent worldwide, 50 percent in developing countries and 15 percent in Least Developed Countries. This then gives you a sense of where we have to be if we are to be a globally competitive nation.
So what is the state of our broadband policy?
State of Broadband Policy and Plan in SA
We went to parliament on 20 August and set out our strategy and programme until the 2014 elections. Our aim, we explained, is to finalise the Broadband Policy by the end of November.
The latest draft of the Broadband Policy, Strategy and Plan will be finalised by the Department of Communications (DoC) within 14 days and taken to other relevant Ministers for their consideration over the next month or so, including through SIP (Strategic Integrated Project) 15 of the National Infrastructure Plan, which is overseen by the Presidential Coordinating Commission. We are very clear! We need to ensure access to cheaper, faster, better quality broadband. It is long overdue.
Obviously, we have to move with speed too on spectrum policy. We aim to finalise the Spectrum Policy by March 2014. This includes the issue of high-demand spectrum for broadband, which is linked to digital migration.
Objectives of Broadband Policy
The objectives of the Broadband Policy include ensuring universal service and access to reliable, affordable and secure broadband services by all citizens prioritising rural and under-serviced areas; expediting the deployment of broadband networks and services in the country; ensuring the continued availability and expansion of broadband capacity to support economic and social goals of the country; reducing the cost of broadband services and customer premise equipments; and clarifying the roles of the Government, state owned companies (SOCs) and the private sector.
Broadband is, of course, being delivered across local and provincial government to differing degrees and in an uncoordinated way. Partly this is because of the policy vacuum on broadband. There is a need to ensure effective coordination in the construction of broadband networks in the country. Uncoordinated efforts often lead to duplication of resources by various entities resulting in them deploying infrastructure in the same place. The adoption of SIPs provides opportunities to piggy back on the rollout of other utility networks, such as roads, water, sanitation, rail and electricity, in the rollout of broadband networks. We are exploring the possibility that that ducts be installed in all major publicly funded utility infrastructures, at construction phase, to facilitate the extension of existing networks and the rollout of planned broadband networks. This is a matter being considered as part of our
Broadband Policy and Plan.
We are going to consult with the local and provincial spheres to ensure coordination across the spheres within the framework of the Broadband Policy, Strategy and Plan. We will do this through the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MINMEC (Ministers and MECs forum) and by meeting with the South African Local Government Association.
Broadband distribution is skewed towards metropolitan areas. Our Plan aims to ensure broadband infrastructure is fairly delivered also to rural and underserviced areas.
We also recognise that Telkom has over 140 000 kms of fibre optic network in the country, which, it is said, is over half what the country needs for universal access. So we have to, in ways consistent with the recognition that Telkom is a listed company, see what Telkom’s role should be in the roll-out of Broadband. What too of the role of Broadband Infraco? We need to engage about this – openly and fairly.
Promoting Digital Inclusion
Broadband will contribute to economic and social development by encouraging the adoption of local digital content. This will lead to the development of a National Digitisation Programme which prioritises amongst others, e-health, e-education and e-government services to citizens. In education, broadband has the ability to strengthen teaching, learning and administrative processes, transcending many geographical and financial limitations. The days of carrying a heavy school bag could become a thing of the past as school children merely carry their tablets to class. The Gauteng Government has already embarked on one such project. Gauteng's 2 200 public schools will have access to uncapped wi-fi and 3G connectivity and 88 000 Huawei tablets from next year, as part of the province's e-Learning Solution.
In the health sector broadband will create more online access to quality health services, improve health data capturing and use as well as the dissemination of such data. Imagine if every patient at a public hospital had just one patient card that could be picked up at any hospital.
Of course many government services are already available online. However, access to them is limited to those who can afford it. The rollout of broadband will ensure that more citizens have access to these services and will also act to stimulate government to make more of our services available online. Government departments and agencies could also serve as anchor tenants for broadband centres, making them financially viable while delivering their services.
A 10 percent increase in broadband penetration could lead up to a 1, 4 percent increase in GDP. Broadband can revitalise the e-commerce sector and provide for the creation of new industries and jobs. The booming app market and shift to online stores are examples of this.
Government Can’t Do It Alone
For all the challenges, government has made significant progress since 1994. We could have done better. But we have certainly made important progress. The “2012 Development Indicators Report”, just released, shows that more South African households are accessing basic services, infant and child mortality rates are falling, and life expectancy has increased. Households with access to potable water increased from about 60% in 1994 to 96% by 2011/12, those with access to electricity increased from about 50% to 76.5%, and access to sanitation rose from 50% to 83.4%. Formal housing has grown by 50% since 1994, translating to an additional 5.6-million formal homes since the country's first democratic elections. Of course, there are questions about the quality of this quantity – but still there is significant delivery. South Africans' real incomes have also risen, with the percentage of South Africans in the poorest living standards measures group (LSM1 to 3) having fallen from 40% in 2000/01 to about 12% in 2011, while those in LSM4 to 7 (the middle class) having increased from 42% to about 60%.
Why can’t the ICT industry report similar figures for broadband? Why is the ICT industry lagging behind?
The increase in number of households with access to basic services like electricity, water and sanitation is the outcome of government’s deliberate actions to make these services available to people, especially to people without the economic means. Without this sort of determination, broadband penetration and usage will not improve. We can’t obviously leave it to the market alone. We need far more cooperation and importantly an acknowledgement of the importance of broadband roll out and expansion as a national imperative.
The question of cost is clearly important. The reason why there is predatory pricing that has been left to block expansion and usage needs to be addressed more actively. Why the regulatory scheme failed to produce a significant lowering of price to communicate is an issue that this Conference also needs to consider further. Why is it that for same access, South Africans are charged higher by South African companies that behave differently in other markets? We thought charity begins at home but in telecoms it seems it begins elsewhere!
We need further considered engagement on this. ICASA is addressing this matter. As a department, without undermining ICASA’s work, we are hoping to have a pricing of telecommunications workshop with the participation of the operators before the end of this month.
Moving faster towards a new broadband world together
The International Telecommunication Union’s “Trends in Telecommunication Reform 2013” indicates that the use of multiple connected devices is increasing in both the developed and the developing world. The digital divide is now between those who have access to multiple screens, specifically broadband-enabled devices such as smartphones, laptops and tablets, and those who are limited to just one screen. Those having multiple devices connected to the Internet are full citizens of a hyper-connected world.
We are in the very early stages of a journey towards an extraordinary new world - a broadband world. We would like all of you to take an active part in this journey. Our job as government is to create the space for you to do so. And we certainly will.
We wish you well with your deliberations over the next few