Steps towards SA universal access

The South African government has gazetted long-awaited broadband policy directions, aimed at taking the first steps towards broadband access for all citizens.

The government’ s first universal access goals will be to achieve ECN connectivity to every municipal area, broadband to at least 15% of households, and public ICT access points within a two-kilometre radius of anyone in a sparsely populated area, all by 2019.

The policy signed by Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda underlines the government’ s commitment to achieving universal broadband access, reducing the cost of communication and using ICTs to improve social conditions.

The policy is in line with the government’ s commitment in 2007 towards the building of an information society. The policy states that while SA’ s private sector has played “ a significant role in the current provision of broadband infrastructure” , this is not enough. The government is therefore duty-bound to take steps to create a uniform, integrated, homogenous and coordinated approach to the roll-out of broadband in the country.

Among other things, the policy document says the government will intervene to expand broadband networks to “ marginal areas” . Access must be rolled out to households, businesses, civil society and the government, it says. The government acknowledged that increasing uptake would also require the development of local content across all South African languages, as well as improving e-government services.

The government undertook to promote an “ enabling regulatory environment” . It said the government would use state-owned enterprises such as Sentech and Infraco for the provisioning of electronic communications services.

To develop and coordinate the broadband implementation plan, a Broadband Inter-Governmental Implementation Committee will be established. The Committee will report to the Minister of Communications.

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