During the annual Budget Speech Vote made by South Africa’s Department of Communications, Deputy Minister Stella Ndabeni called on network operators to work together in order to build an effective infrastructure to deliver quality service.
“Network operators must be encouraged to share infrastructure which, I believe, will enable them to make savings and maximise broadband deployment to the home and business as well as reduce the cost to communicate,” she said.
During her speech, which was themed ‘Building ICT infrastructure for South Africa’s advancement in the knowledge and digital economy’, she added that there shouldn’t be any boundaries when it comes to the advancement of technology. “It is my view that there are no limits in technology innovation. As a result we will construct univocal policies to further enhance market liberalisation, encourage investment in the economy, level the playing field by encouraging new entrants in the market, and indeed this will be done in the public interest.”
With everything the Department has planned, she said that they will remain committed to further development of ICT.
“We are committed to support research, development and innovation initiatives in the Information Communications Technologies (ICT’s), which aim to develop a strong base for information society and knowledge economy.”
Minister of Communications Dina Pule added that the Department has identified three key areas that will receive attention in the coming months.
“In this financial year, and for the medium term, we have prioritized three flagship programmes which are at the core of building a digital information and knowledge society. These include the acceleration of building a modern digital infrastructure as well as the policy reforms which position the country for an advanced knowledge economy in 2030.”
These three programmes highlighted by the Minister was developing a National Integrated ICT policy, rolling out a national broadband network, and implementing the digital broadcasting migration policy.
“These programmes are aligned to the Government’s goals of building a developmental state that will contribute to rural development, improving the quality of education and delivery of healthcare services and relentlessly fighting the scourge of crime and corruption that disadvantages the State in the delivery of services, especially to the masses who are both in rural and urban areas.”
The department will also be celebrating World Telecommunications on Information Society Day on 17 May 2012, and has adopted the theme of Women and Girls in ICT. “Together with the industry and in collaboration with the Northern Cape Provincial Government we have planned a festival of activities beginning from the 17 – 20 May 2012 to encourage and acknowledge the role of women in ICTs,” said Ndabeni.
The Minister added “We are focused on elevating the role played by women in the sector. In November 2012 we shall be hosting a “Women in ICT Conference” to celebrate the female trailblazers within the sector and also highlight the ICT career options that are available to our young women and girls. ICT has to be a career of choice for them too.”
Deputy Minister Ndabeni also highlighted the planned implementation of a rural ICT development program, which will focus on establishing new access centres in the 161 priority areas across the country. The program is due to get under way later this year.
“The strategy also affirms our commitment to connect all schools and health centres in the country. Due to the cross cutting nature of this project, we have established a dedicated Task Team comprising the Departments of Communications, Basic Education, Public Service and Administration, Rural Development and Land Reform, Health and Science and Technology.”
She also laid out plans to make radio more accessible to rural areas. “Our vision is to ensure that there is a community radio station in every municipality. We have begun a process to look at the impact of the community radio support programme since its inception in 1998. This review will assist us to develop and implement a comprehensive Community Radio Station Support Programme, focusing on content, capacity building, signal distribution and infrastructure.”
On the issue of more spectrum being made available, the Minister said that the process will be finalised to license more radio frequency spectrum.
“We are acutely aware of the interconnectedness of broadband and the licensing of radio frequency spectrum, which is a scarce natural resource. In this regard, we commit to finalizing the policy directions on high demand spectrum in order to facilitate the licensing of broadband applications in this current financial year.”
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor