Web Africa CEO, Tim Wyatt-Gunning says that, within the context of the staggering inaction by the Department of Communication (DoC) over the past decade, the latest call for an ICT policy overhaul from communication minister Dina Pule, should be taken with a pinch of salt.
“While Minister Pule should be applauded for taking action in her call for a policy review for the ICT sector, it should come as no surprise that some in the industry remain deeply sceptical,” Wyatt-Gunning said.
Speaking at the ICT Colloquium, Minister Pule announced a policy review to “…overhaul all the legislation in our sector such that they reflect the work that the government does and helps this country and industry to benefit from sustainable ICT development and services for the next 20 years.”
Wyatt-Gunning noted that Web Africa would certainly support such a laudable objective.
“However, when taken in the context of the staggering inaction from the department over the last decade, the Minister must forgive businesses in the sector if our response is slightly underwhelming.”
He said that reading the outcomes of the first day at the Colloquium stirred up feeling of déjà vu. “How many times has the Ministry, under its various leaders, promised sweeping changes aimed at creating an enabling environment?”
“When the President announced the appointment of Roy Padayachie as the Minister of the DoC in November 2010, the official line from the department was that he would ‘accelerate policy implementation and strengthen policy development’,” Wyatt-Gunning said.
“A similar line was touted when Siphiwe Nyanda came into office around eighteen months before that.”
“And yet in this time we have seen very little meaningful action. Our spectrum is still contested, the last mile is still controlled by the incumbent, and the industry is still forced to deal with a regulator which simply does not have the resources (financial or human capital) to effectively regulate current legislation,” the ISP head continued.
Web Africa acknowledged that it has enjoyed some incremental gains over the last few years, “but certainly nothing of the sweeping changes promised by each successive leader”.
The ISP opines that South Africa has steadily fallen behind in global digital performance. Universal access remains nothing more than an academic talking point, and the cost of broadband sees South Africa’s global competiveness continue in reverse.
“Minister Pule’s comments about “not wanting to rush things” when it comes to making changes seem ill-chosen in the current context. And while the desire to do things properly should never be dismissed, we’ve just heard this too many times before.”
“So you will have to forgive us Minister, if we are taking your promises of things to come with more than just a little pinch of salt.”
“In the meanwhile, it remains up to industry to continue to innovate and deliver around the inadequate policy and regulatory regime which we have grown accustomed to,” Wyatt-Gunning concluded.