DA’s Minister of Communications could make smartphones tax-free

  • The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies is led by a DA member, who is influenced by DA policy.
  • The DA’s ICT policy describes that the high cost of smartphones and mobile devices widens the digital divide.
  • In the policy, the party outlines plans to either reduce or remove taxes from certain mobile devices in South Africa to reduce these costs.

Following the appointment of a national executive for the first time comprised of multiple political parties, someone other than the ANC will get a shot at running the country. With the Democratic Alliance (DA) now in charge of the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies, we’ll detail some of the possible plans it could be working on in the next five years.

According to the party’s information and communication technology policy, which will likely influence the decisions of Solly Malatsi, the newly appointed Minister of Communications, the DA seeks to bring affordable internet data, close the digital divide, and implement a digital transformation of government institutions, industries and the private sector.

Nothing here is brand new, and the ANC has been in different ways seeking to accomplish the same goals. Most recently it was revealed that the department under the now-Deputy Minister of Communications Mondli Gungubele was working on a policy to provide free data to all South Africans.

However, one departure from the two parties, is that the DA believes that while getting to internet into as many homes as possible is essential to any digital tech policies, it outlines that people need technology in order to access the internet and that South Africa is a predominantly mobile-focused population.

This is echoed in the latest census, conducted in 2022, which indicates that while radio use is in decline, internet usage is skyrocketing and the main access to the internet for the majority of South African households (60.5 percent) is through mobile devices, such as smartphones.

In its ICT policy, the DA outlines its plans to remove government taxes imposed on smartphones and other mobile devices as the party calls these no longer “luxury items” but a necessity to be included in South Africa’s increasingly digital economy.

It cites a report from ICT Africa, which notes that nearly 37 percent of respondents said they couldn’t access the internet because they didn’t own a device that was internet-enabled.

“Another factor that contributes to the cost of smartphones in the country, and Africa as a whole, are the
high taxes that these devices incur. Therefore, measures which will cut taxes and reduce tariffs paid
would make a considerable difference in addressing the problem of cost,” it explains, citing an article from Huawei South Africa.

“Smartphones below a certain value could also be excluded from any form of tax or duty. Taxes can also be removed or lowered from devices,” the DA’s policy reads.

The party hopes that “This will increase the uptake of ICT usage.” It even outlines devices like the Mobicel Astro, the Hisense U962, and the Vodacom Kicka 6 as smartphones below the R1 000 price range that could be targeted to become tax-free or tax-reduced.

These are devices that are brought to the market by companies that have identified the demand for more affordable handsets, but overall the cost of smartphones continues to present a barrier for more mobile internet adoption – “which is a problem considering that these devices can be key enablers for escaping poverty.”

Other recommendations the party makes in its ICT policy that could be enacted by the Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies include the acceleration of the rollout of digital terrestrial television, the rollout of government-led broadband initiatives, the creation of more free public WiFi hotspots, the introduction of a national policy that will make government websites, such as universities, schools and other institutions, cost zero mobile data and more.

[Image – Photo by Sayan Majhi on Unsplash]


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