SA in info highway slow lane
|September 15, 2005|
The digital divide between rich and poor is slowly becoming a divide between African countries and the rest of the world, says Rudolph Muller, lecturer at the department of business IT at the University of Johannesburg and founder of the broadband Website, MyADSL.
Muller was speaking at the fourth annual iWeek conference currently under way in Houghton, Johannesburg.
The state of Internet offerings in SA means South Africans can’t use Internet technology properly, and applications like podcasting cannot be used to their full capacity, he noted.
Muller also said South African content developers are falling behind their international counterparts, as they have to build content for the Internet environment they live in.
Expensive broadband in SA is also hindering e-commerce growth, said Muller.
"International companies can practically write off their telecommunications accounts with the cheap broadband access overseas," whereas telecoms accounts are a big expense in the South African environment, he added.
Muller commended the wireless Internet options for their internationally competitive pricing.
He pointed to the comments made by Winston Smith, portfolio manager of MyWireless, during the broadband shootout held earlier this month.
Smith said the major expense for Internet access is the international bandwidth cost, which makes up 62% of the overall cost.
Despite this, a brief survey done by Muller showed the wireless offerings in SA are cheaper than those offered in the UK.
Yet, Muller said, the wired broadband offerings are massively expensive in comparison to their international counterparts.
"We are paying for a sub-standard service at an exorbitant price."
Solutions to cheaper Internet start with the Department of Communications’ recently held telecoms pricing colloquium, which should develop a strategy towards cheaper Internet access, said Muller.
"Unbundling the local loop will bring prices down, speed things up and improve Internet services."
Muller also said the sector needs more competition other than the second national operator.
He proposed that the telecoms sector should be opened up. "Why not create an open environment where entrepreneurs with a good business plan can come in and build an infrastructure? Open it up for the people to experiment."
Muller added that the sector needs a strong and independent regulatory arm.