Zuma punts broadband for all

President Jacob Zuma delivered his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) today, in which he restated government’s broadband goal

By - February 14, 2013
South Africa flag map

President Jacob Zuma delivered his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) today (14 February 2013), in which he stated that government plans to achieve 100% broadband penetration in South Africa by 2020.

“Broadband penetration” is often used to refer to how much of a population has  a broadband Internet subscription, but to date government has skirted around what it means to provide citizens with access to a broadband connection.

Previously the term “penetration” was used interchangeably with “access”, and did not take into account factors such as the cost of subscribing to a broadband service.

Currently the definition of a broadband connection in South Africa is a connection that offers download speeds of 256kbps, though Minister of Communications Dina Pule has proposed amendments to legislation that would let the Minister adjust this definition “from time to time”.

Missed broadband and telecoms promises

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President Jacob Zuma

In 2012 Zuma did not mention telecommunications, but did hint at investments in ‘information and communication technologies’ in five “major geographically-focussed programmes”.

Zuma also did not mention telecoms prices in his 2011 SONA, but in 2010 and 2009 the president promised lower telecoms prices and better services.

In his first State of the Nation Address (2009) Zuma said that Government “will ensure that the cost of telecommunications is reduced through the projects underway to expand broadband capacity.”

In 2010 Zuma focused on broadband, highlighting that government was working to reduce the cost to communicate, adding that cheaper and faster broadband services are also on the cards.

To date not much has happened to deliver on the broadband promises. In October 2012 the National Treasury further indicated that the communications department made no progress on meeting its broadband penetration targets.

According to the treasury’s report the DoC achieved 0% (zero percent) of its 7% target for the “percentage of broadband penetration per year”.

This means that government has made no progress in its goal to provide 100% “broadband penetration” by 2020. Concrete plans as to how the Department of Communication will achieve this goal also remains sketchy.

Dina Pule

Minister of Communications, Dina Pule

Protection from electronic harassment

President Zuma also mentioned that additional mechanisms to protect women from harassment through “electronic communications” are in the works, in the form of the Protection from Harassment Bill.

“While the Domestic Violence Act also provides protection, it only applies to persons who are in a domestic relationship,” Zuma said.

He explained that this new Bill also deals with harassment by persons who stalk their victims by means of electronic communications.

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