Access to internet and broadband services is slowing starting to reach more corners of the country, but there are still many citizens that don’t have the necessary infrastructure to use them – even if they wanted to.
During the annual Southern Africa Telecommunication Networks and Applications Conference (SATNAC), Siyabonga Cwele, Minister in the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Service, once again reiterated that broadband is a vital infrastructure.
“Internet, particularly broadband is a critical national resource, a vital part of the national infrastructure and one of the key drivers of socio-economic development. The vital question we need to collectively ask ourselves as government, industry and academia is, how do we ensure that we play a meaningful role in the global digital revolution in order to foster a vibrant and inclusive knowledge economy and information society that is envisaged by our National Development Plan?,” he said.
A lot still needs to be done in terms of connecting the whole country, but it’s not as bad as it might seem. Giving an example, Cwele said “Let us cast our mind fifteen years back to 2000 in our continent: internet penetration was 0.78 %, mobile penetration was less than 2%, international connectivity was using satellites for sub-Saharan Africa, national backbones were almost non-existent, and broadband was almost non-existent.”
The Minister also gave an update on the government’s progress on rolling out broadband internet to government offices. The goal of the rollout is to enable state departments to access data, records and process applications much faster.
“The second phase of connectivity will begin in the coming financial year and run until 2020 as all government offices in South Africa will be connected to broadband. As we connect all government offices to drive e-government, we envisage increased uptake and use of ICT, and ultimately all South Africans will be a part of this digital revolution. We have established the iKamva National e-Skills Institute to ensure that as we implement e-government we can skill our government employees to be able to effectively provide e-government services to our people.”
The Minister also highlighted two critical issues that he said government must prioritise.
“The first is to enter the global debate on internet governance. As a country we welcome a multi-stakeholder approach but it must be government-led and co-ordinated at a multilateral level. It must operate in the interest of security, human rights, business and technology development,” he said.
The second point, he added, was that everybody involved in ICT should cast their focus to the future and embrace future applications and services that would increasingly rely on support for key features such as multilingualism, security and identity management.
“In this regard we must engage the Digital Object Architecture.”
So there you have it. Government intends to roll out broadband access to all of its departments, and strongly believes in improving broadband speeds, costs and access across the country in order to embrace a digital-driven future.