Government spending on Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is projected to top R15bn as pressure mounts to meet national broadband goals, a report has found.
“The South Africa government’s total national and provincial ICT spend is projected to grow from R13.6bn in 2014/2015 to R15bn in 2017/2018,” according to research firm BMI-T’s ‘2015 ICT in Government’ report.
The upward trajectory of spending is further in line with government commitments to roll out digital terrestrial television (DTT) and deliver universal broadband by 2020.
However, health and education departments gobble up the majority of ICT spend in government, growing from R1.87bn in 2014/2015 to R2.09bn in this financial year.
According to the BMI-T report, that amounts to 14% of national and provincial government’s expenditure.
“Most of the health and education budget is spent at provincial level, with 79% being spent at provincial level in 2014/2015, growing to 87% in 2017/2018,” BMI-T said.
Much of the national government expenditure will be consumed by the country’s shift to digital terrestrial television (DTT) and roll-out of universal broadband by the self-imposed 2020 deadline.
The Universal Service and Access Agency of SA (Usaasa) has budgeted R4.3bn for the manufacture of five million set-top boxes (STBs) as part of the DTT programme. Government further plans to rely on Telkom to ramp up its expansion of broadband, but BMI-T questioned whether capacity was sufficient for the deployment of services.
“Telkom has been designated as ‘lead agent’ to co-ordinate roll-out of broadband to an initial eight municipalities in six provinces, but details on how this will be done have not been clarified as yet.”
Treasury has also committed R1.1bn to the broadband roll-out, but BMT-T questioned whether the investment would result in measurable expansion of access.
“Two hundred and forty million rand has been allocated for this financial year, but it is unclear how this money will translate into actual ICT spend to connect schools and health clinics, as the budgets for provincial health and education do not seem to reflect much of an increase in ICT spend.”
The research organisation concluded that despite the increase in ICT spend, SA is not on course to meet national policy targets.
“Taking into consideration the all the ICT spend in national and provincial health and education departments, and the money allocated by DTPS for broadband rollout, it is clear that much more money needs to be found to reach the given SA Connect broadband targets.”