A group of organisations – including the APC, South Africa Connect, SANGONeT (Southern African NGO
Network) and The Shuttleworth Foundation – are convening a one-day event as a first step towards drafting a framework for a national broadband strategy for South Africa.
The South African National Broadband Forum, which will be held on 24 March in Johannesburg, aims to bring together various interest groups to identify the key components of a national broadband strategy which will be consolidated into a framework to be presented to the new government.
"Access to broadband is an imperative for the full expression of citizenship in today’s world. With affordable broadband, the enormous potential for socioeconomic, cultural, and educational development in South Africa can be realized," the organisers of the event states.
"In South Africa, we are on the cusp of a major broadband infrastructure rollout. Seacom, a submarine cable initiative will link South Africa to India and Europe by mid 2009 and break the monopoly of Telkom’s SAT3 cable and bring down the cost of international bandwidth. The judgment in the Altech legal challenge opens the way for anyone to build and operate a high speed broadband network further reducing the cost of accessing broadband internet."
The group says that broadband is not only an issue of high speed networks, it also provides a platform for disruptive Web 2.0 technologies that enable ordinary people to produce and distribute content on the Web – as the success of YouTube, Flickr, and Facebook demonstrate.
"This poses a challenge for local content industries to generate and distribute content for a broadband world. Content is a critical driver of the demand for broadband infrastructure and services, while broadband provides a new means of content production and distribution."
Broadband can also help facilitate e-citizenship and e-governance in order to enhance relations between citizens and government to build and strengthen our democracy. Improved availability of electric power is a necessary component for rolling out broadband, particularly in rural areas. The environmental challenges of our times demand an exploration of alternative sources of energy to sustain broadband infrastructure.
Broadband penetration in South Africa lags behind countries with a similar level of development such as the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Turkey. One of the reasons for this is that there hasn’t been a coherent policy framework to guide the development of broadband.
"The election of a new government provides an opportunity to look at the policy framework with fresh eyes and to consider the inter-related components needed to develop a coherent national broadband strategy."
SA Broadband strategy – what do you think it should contain?