30 September 2013 marked the deadline of a few of the Department of Communications’ (DOC’s) projects, and unlike previous administrations, most of these deadlines were met. This is a massive improvement in a department which has become known for incompetence and missed deadlines.
On 20 August new communications minister Yunus Carrim presented a set of deadlines to parliament, saying that “you can hold us by them”.
Many people may not have given him much of a chance of success considering the reputation of his department – however, they may be surprised with the results.
Most of the deadlines Carrim set were met, and in the one instance where a deadline was missed he was not the main cause of the delay.
DoC deadlines for 30 September 2013
In August, Carrim delivered a detailed list of the projects, with deadlines, to parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Communications which his department will focus on up to the 2014 elections.
Deadline 1: By the end of September we will be convening a pricing workshop as part of a consultative process on the cost-to-communicate.
Minister Carrim’s response: The pricing workshop was held on 26 September as planned. Senior representatives of all the mobile operator, other relevant stakeholders and experts attended. It was facilitated by an independent academic expert. A structure has been established comprising DoC and representatives of the mobile operators to take issues forward.
Deadline 2: We are also engaging ICASA on their reviewing of Mobile Termination Rates.
Minister Carrim’s response: We have met with Icasa three times in the last 3 months. Our last meeting was on 23 September. Among the issues raised was the need to further reduce call termination rates as is consistent with our policy directives in this regard. We also discussed exploring the possibilities of the Department working with them on their need for greater support in terms of finances, other resources and capacity. Obviously, as Icasa is an independent regulator, there are limits to the nature of the discussions we can have with them.
Deadline 3: We have to sensibly and sensitively set a firm foundation for a further reduction in the costs of communication. The needs of the users and the service providers will both be taken into account. A new policy directive on transparent pricing policy will be finalized by the end of September.
Minister Carrim’s response: Following exchanges with ICASA and issues that emerged in the pricing policy workshop with the mobile operators, it has been decided to defer issuing the transparent pricing policy directive for a while. Exactly when the directive will be released depends on the outcome of various discussions and negotiations taking place.
Deadline 4: DoC completed a Draft Broadband Policy yesterday and the Draft Broadband Strategy and Plan will be completed (by the Ministry) by the end of September. However we will still have to discuss the Policy, Strategy and Plan with other relevant government departments before we take it to Cabinet. We intend to finalise the process by the end of November
Minister Carrim’s response: The draft Draft Broadband Strategy and Plan was indeed considered by the Ministry before the end of September. Following this and further discussions with other Ministers and departments, it was decided to make changes to the draft. A team of experts led by the CSIR has been brought in to assist the Department to finalise the draft. If the changes are substantial we are exploring the possibilities of bringing the stakeholders together to comment on the draft before we take it through the government processes. However, no final decision has been taken on this yet. Our aim is to either get a Cabinet-approved final version or a final draft for further public input by the end of November, depending on the content of the policy, strategy and plan. If it is the latter, then we would want to finalise the Broadband Policy, strategy and plan early in 2014.