South Africa’s broadband policy serves as a framework to create a ‘vibrant information society’
South Africa’s new broadband policy “South Africa Connect: Creating Opportunities, Ensuring Inclusion” – approved last week by the Minister of Communications – outlines a series of steps needed to create a “dynamic and connected vibrant information society and a knowledge economy that is more inclusive, equitable and prosperous.” Achieving this complex goal means boosting broadband adoption in the coming years. Importantly, the South African government acknowledges how a lack of quality bandwidth has limited South Africa’s global competitiveness over the past two decades.
All in all, South Africa Connect stresses the need for public and private sector involvement to achieve roll-out of infrastructure and spectrum. A broadband council and an open access wholesale network are crucial. Modifications to how the regulator (ICASA) functions and how policies enable competitive broadband markets are needed as well.
Of course, none of these needs comes as a surprise and to critics, the 62-page report very well could appear as rhetoric. For example, guiding principles include an array of utopian terms: openness, neutrality, universality, equality, efficiency, coordination, transparency, innovation, complementarity, and future-proof. However, this specific policy is just a framework and a detailed plan (in this case a “roadmap”) will be created shortly to guide developments over the next two decades. Much of this plan’s success hinges upon ample funding though.
Regardless of one’s opinion of the endeavor, a plethora of facts on South Africa’s current connectivity can be found in the gazette. These stats won’t necessarily help South Africa achieve its lofty broadband targets, but they are worth a mention if they can bring attention to the need to boost the nation’s connectivity.
- As of 2013, broadband access is cited at 33.7%
- As of 2013, 25% of schools have broadband access; 13% of health facilities
- Four submarine cables give a combined 11.5 Tbps of capacity (soon to be 29.5 Tbps)
- 86% of the population lives within 10km of a fibre node
Also, specific targets for South Africa Connect include the following:
- Four factors need to be addressed in order for broadband to boost the economy are access, affordability, demand-side skills, supply-side skills.
- Average download speeds of 5 Mbps for 50% of the population by 2016; 5 Mbps for 90% of the population by 2010; universal 100 Mbps by 2013 – with QoS monitored by the regulator (targets will be reviewed throughout the next 17 years).
- By 2020, every South African will have access to broadband at 2.5% or less of the national average monthly income.
- If broadband targets are met and with R65 billion of investment, more than 400,000 jobs and R130 billion could be created over 10 years.
Source: “Electronic Communications Act: South Africa Connect: Creating Opportunity, Ensuring Inclusion: South Africa’s Broadband Policy,” G 37119 Gon 953, South Africa Government Online, www.gov.za.