SA ICT regulation a “tragedy” – Koos Bekker

Govt should step out the way and let everyone compete – Naspers chief.

It is a tragedy that South Africa hasn’t developed broadband in a way that other countries have, reckons Naspers CEO Koos Bekker, who is currently on sabbatical.

So many new technologies are based on broadband (fast internet access) and South Africa is lagging the world as a result of its strangling regulatory environment, says Bekker, who was recently inducted into the World Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame, in Monte Carlo. “You know, in 2000 we had 50% of the internet connections in Africa, of the whole continent,” he noted on the Moneyweb Power Hour Tuesday.

“Today South Africa has less than 25%, and falling, and I mean we have got practically no broadband – in a few hundred thousand homes. In Korea, for example, about 73% of all homes have a massive broadband, enough to show a movie on.”

Worse still, not a cent of government funding is required to bring South Africa up to speed, argues Bekker. “All it needs is for government to just get out of the way, open up the market, let people compete, and the private sector will mobilise the money to actually bring us up to date.”

Bekker says that unless we get the regulatory breakthrough, the position won’t improve.

“There are basically two regulatory models,” says Bekker. “One is, I as the regulator needs to conceive a service and set it and approve it and then we launch it. There’s another model that just says: ‘I don’t know which will succeed, most new things in fact fail, but let me open the market and everyone who wants to run, runs. Whoever wants to compete, do so. Most of you guys will fail. Tough. That’s the world.’”

The latter model, is the one adopted in states like California, and countries like Korea and Japan. “Those countries are just way ahead. So I think in our case it’s simply a psychological stance we need to take, to say it’s not the job of government or the regulator to fund any of this, or even to approve the business plans. Just stand back. Let every young kid in his garage develop every new service he possibly wants.”

Most will fail, says Bekker. “But a few of them will succeed and from that you might have the Googles, you know, the great success stories of our age.”

Unfortunately for died-in-the-wool entrepreneurs like Bekker, there is little sign of government declaring a free-for-all in the telecommunications industry.

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SA ICT regulation a “tragedy” – Koos Bekker