Broadband in South Africa needed to drive economy

Broadband is making headlines around the world, and it is with good reason that most forward thinking governments have measures in place to ensure high broadband penetration.

A recent report in Australia estimated that increased broadband penetration will lift the country’s GDP by between 0.5 and 2.5%.

In terms of overseas rankings South Africa’s broadband penetration is not healthy.

World Wide Worx released a report that places most of the blame regarding South Africa’s poor online retail sector on the high cost of broadband Internet.

A MyADSL poll substantiates this statement with around 90% of pollsters indicating that the high cost of broadband is the biggest obstacle to the growth of eCommerce in South Africa.

Many people may ague that in a country with problems like AIDS and poverty broadband should take a back seat. This argument will however only increase the problems facing South Africa and ensure that the future is bleaker than the present.

Unless this country prepares itself to join the new global information society it will gradually (as we see now) fall behind and soon find itself unable to compete economically.

Our online retailing sector and eCommerce growth is pathetic when compared to first world countries.

Unless this situation is remedied we will see an increasing amount of money flowing out of this country. This is already the case with services like hosting or online gaming.

Fast, always-on Internet is the key to ensuring that we become an information society. Unfortunately legislation has made this a luxury only afforded to the privileged few.

But there ARE easy solutions! Legalize self provisioning, make the open use of WiFi for last mile access legal and open the Telecoms market. Businesses will take care of the rest.

There are already many examples where communities which were unable to get broadband access through the conventional means (wired or wireless) were served by entrepreneurs making use of wireless technologies.

The solutions are easy, but government’s will to act is lacking. It is uncertain whether it is their majority stake in Telkom or sheer incompetence that is causing the slow change, but what is certain is that they are holing the country back and stifling an economy that is ready to take off.

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Broadband in South Africa needed to drive economy