Affordable broadband for all by 2020 in South Africa

The Department of Communications (DoC) ran a workshop for its draft national broadband policy on Friday, 25 October 2013, which restated its vision for broadband for all South Africans by 2020 as follows:

The vision for broadband is that by 2020, 100% of South Africans will have access to broadband services at 2.5% or less of the average monthly income for South Africa.

This raises questions about what constitutes “broadband”, “access”, and “average monthly income”.

Under the previous National Broadband Policy (2005), the DoC specifically defined broadband as an always-on connection that has at least a 256kbps download speed.

While this definition was derived from the recommendation of the International Telecommunications Union for developing nations, it drew criticism, and the new policy offers a less specific definition:

An ecosystem of high capacity, high speed and high quality electronic networks, services, applications and content that enhances the variety, utility and value of information and communication for different types of users.

According to the new draft policy, this definition must be read with reviewable broadband targets specified in the following table:

Target Penetration measure Baseline (2013) By 2015 By 2020 By 2030
Broadband access in Mbps user experience % of population 33.7% Internet access* 50% at 5Mbps 100% at 5Mbps; 50% at 100Mbps 100% at 10Mbps; 80% at 100Mbps
Schools % of schools 25% connected 100% at 10Mbps 100% at 100Mbps 100% at 1Gbps
Health facilities % of health services 13% connected 100% at 10Mbps 100% at 100Mbps 100% at 1Gbps
Government facilities % of government offices 50% at 5Mbps 100% at 100Mbps 100% at 100Mbps
* Research ICT Africa, 2012 ICT Access and Use Survey

To solicit comments and answer questions about the draft, the DoC hosted a workshop for stakeholders on Friday, 25 October 2013. A panel of people that worked on the policy document were on hand during the workshop to field questions and respond to feedback.

The panel said that the affordability definition of 2.5% of average monthly income in South Africa is not cast in stone and expects feedback from stakeholders on how realistic it is.

Asked which measure is to be used for “average monthly income”, the panel said that a number of statistics could be used.

As examples, the panel listed the figures released by Stats SA as a potential measure and per-capita Gross Domestic Product.

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Affordable broadband for all by 2020 in South Africa