The Department of Communications (DoC) issued a press statement today (24 April), providing an update on the implementation of its “SA Connect” broadband policy and strategy.
South Africa’s broadband policy and strategy was adopted by cabinet on 4 December 2013, and the DoC has made some progress since then.
It has connected 788 schools to fast internet through cyber-labs, launched the iKamva National e-Skills Institute and the National Broadband Advisory Council (NBAC).
The NBAC comprises local and international technical experts, and representatives of business, trade unions and civil society to advise the Minister on the implementation of “SA Connect”.
The DoC has been consulting within government and the state-owned companies on finalising an implementation plan.
A meeting of Strategic Integrated Project (SIP) 15 was held today, focusing on “Expanding Access to Communication Technology”.
SIP 15 includes representatives of all three spheres of government and the state-owned companies involved in taking the plan further.
“We need to move with speed on broadband, but we also have to be sensible and effective,” said Minister of Communications, Yunus Carrim.
“There is considerable unevenness in the delivery of broadband across the country and while we must encourage local initiatives we need to synergise our efforts under SA Connect to ensure maximum benefits from broadband for the country as a whole.”
“We have been engaging with the provinces, municipalities, the South African Local Government Association and the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Department about this,” he said.
“This synergy, understandably, will take time, but is certainly beginning to happen. Today’s Strategic Integrated Project 15 meeting is a further step in that direction.”
The plan of action
The Broadband Implementation Plan is structured around the four prongs of the digital strategy in the policy: Digital Readiness, Digital Development, Digital Future and Digital Opportunity.
The Broadband Steering Committee and five Task Teams consisting of different government stakeholders are seeking to expedite the finalisation of the implementation plan.
Other stakeholders will also be consulted on the implementation plan.
The implementation framework outlines the following projects which have been completed or are underway:
- An overall roadmap, stakeholder plan, technical plan, business case and procurement plan have been worked on.
- A Broadband governance structure has been established in consultation with government departments and state agencies. The Broadband Steering Committee (BSC) will provide consistent strategic oversight of the broadband implementation plan development process. The BSC will work closely with the NBAC.
- An Inter-Governmental Project Team has been established on the rationalization of the state-owned companies.
- Provinces and municipalities have been engaged on their provincial and municipal broadband plans with the aim of aligning them with SA Connect.
- User Requirements Specification (URS) for Schools, Health Facilities and Public facilities are being finalised in conjunction with the relevant departments. The URS will be used in the broadband network planning to specify current and future requirements by the various Departments.
- A process to align the broadband planning process to the budget cycle in a phased approach has been adopted to ensure that a detailed infrastructure gap analysis is conducted before requesting funding from Treasury.
- A detailed implementation plan for the Digital Development strategy has been developed. Due to the interdependencies between activities in the various prongs of the SA Connect strategy, work is underway on several projects to remove the bottlenecks. This includes the development of the Rapid Deployment Policy, spectrum policy directions on broadband spectrum and the wholesale open access network approach. There is also work being done to facilitate broadband demand stimulation to increase uptake and usage whilst addressing issues of research and development, innovation and entrepreneurship. This work seeks to ensure that broadband infrastructure is provided to areas where the users are trained to use broadband services and have the end-user devices to access the relevant broadband services.
“We have made significant progress since December on broadband, but we still have a long way to go. We need public-private and other partnerships, and with the cooperation of all the stakeholders we’ll get there. We have to,” said Carrim.