South Africa is battling many ills, including government incompetence, corruption, and high levels of crime.
These ills have seeped so deep into the fabric of South African that it is influencing the delivery of broadband services in the country.
The best examples are the delay in South Africa’s digital TV migration and not providing mobile operators with more spectrum.
On 17 June 2015, South Africa missed the International Telecommunications Union’s deadline to migrate to digital broadcasting.
South Africa initially planned to complete the migration process by November 2011, which shows how poorly this process was handled.
Observers have also pointed to corruption related to the set-top box production process, which has hampered progress.
A lack of spectrum is severely hurting the roll-out of broadband in South Africa and is a direct consequence of government incompetence.
Incompetence in lower levels of the government is also hurting progress. The cumbersome process to get permission to roll out fibre networks in municipalities is a big challenge for operators.
In one case, the ANC-controlled Msunduzi Municipality, also known as Pietermaritzburg, tried to stop fibre network provider Dark Fibre Africa (DFA) from rolling out fibre in the municipality.
It took two legal victories – one at the High Court and one at the Supreme Court of Appeal – for DFA to roll out fibre in the area to improve services to residents, businesses, and the local government.
And then there is crime. Western Cape Premier Helen Zille said in 2016 that crime was preventing the roll-out of fibre infrastructure in certain areas.
Contractors have refused to work in areas from Nyanga through to Khayelitsha because they have been repeatedly robbed at gunpoint – with their equipment stolen.
Mobile operators have similar challenges in Johannesburg, where gangs have threatened contractors with guns demanding extortion money.
The message from the gangs to contractors was simple: pay us money or you and your workers start getting shot.
In 2013, contractors laying fibre in Sedibeng, a municipality in south Gauteng, were chased off the site by armed gangs after they refused to pay.
So, next time you are fuming over the slow delivery of fibre to your area, or the high prices of mobile data, keep in mind what the cause for these problems may be.