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South Africa: ICT Leaders have their say
Source: http://www.screenafrica.com/page/news/mobile-tv/1427714-ICT-leaders-have-their-say
Source Date: Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Focus: ICT for MDGs, Internet Governance
Country: South Africa
Created: Oct 23, 2012

“Broadband Infraco wants broadband penetration for all of South Africa. There is a need for government intervention to ensure that citizens living in remote areas also receive access to broadband. Every community in South Africa needs to be part of the knowledge economy and the government has to partner with private enterprises to make this happen.”

Sejanamane noted the shortage of engineers in South Africa. “Broadband Infraco will embark on an internship programme to help develop the local engineering pool. It’s important to invest in this otherwise our country will be run by ex-pats. There is talent in this country and I want to point out that there are female engineers as well.”

She spoke about the need to ensure that South Africa’s topology is one of meshed networks so that there wouldn’t be situations where cellphone networks go down and the whole country comes to a standstill.

The SABC’s Mokhobo made no mention of the long series of crises that have, and continue to, trouble the public broadcaster. She referred to it as an organisation that is currently being rebirthed.

Said Mokhobo: “The SABC is an organisation which serves a population that needs to be informed on a daily basis. We have 18 radio stations, 11 of which are in indigenous languages, including Khoisan. In the past we’ve had appeals to include Nama people in our radio broadcasts. When you get requests like that you realise the importance of radio.

“The SABC has three TV channels and our mandate is to educate, inform and entertain. I’ve asked my colleagues certain questions such as – is our content contributing to building our country? Is it OK to run one James Bond film after another and glamourise criminality which continues to divide us? Do we recognise the power of the media to influence public perceptions? Do we recognise the power of every word that is uttered by our famous radio DJs?”

Mokhobo stated that the SABC, in partnership with other SACF members, can become the conscience of South Africa from the perspective of what can change the country.

“We look forward to every citizen having access to TV,” she concluded.

It’s critical for South Africa’s telecommunications prices to come down said Cell C’s Knott-Craig.

“We need to look at input costs; some are controlled by us, some are controlled by regulator ICASA and some are controlled by government. Telecommunications in South Africa is all about economies of scale in terms of reducing prices. The debate should be about whether we should have a wholesale network in the country,” said Knott-Craig who mentioned that Cell C expected to launch 4G LTE-advanced services next year.

Vodacom’s Joosub described himself as a product of the new South Africa, having joined Vodacom in 1994 at the lowest rung.

Joosub continued: “Vodacom has done a lot to develop South Africa’s communications networks over the years. As a market leader we feel we should contribute more to helping the country grow. We invest over R7bn a year in evolving our networks and we cover 98% of the population. Seventy-five percent of our customers have access to 3G.

“Soon our whole network will be LTE-able. We launched LTE-advanced last week because we thought the country was falling behind. One of the restrictions we face is lack of spectrum. We need to move quickly to the digital dividend to access the 800MHz spectrum so as to speed up broadband in this country.”

Joosub commented that while South Africa has a Universal Service Access Fund, with millions in it, no-one has been able to access it.

“I say to government – help us to help you to deliver universal access to broadband by 2020,” he concluded.

In her address Minister Pule noted that over the years the SACF had done good work in bringing together different stakeholders in the sector with the aim or reducing socio-economic inequalities.

“I see before me many old hands who’ve been at the forefront of change in South Africa. There are many faces in the room that understand this industry. It imbues me with confidence that this sector is being led by such capable people.

“I want to congratulate the four CEOs and I look forward to developing a close and fruitful relationship with you. You are welcome to call my office at any time with suggestions. Together we can take South Africa forward. It’s vital that we position South Africa as a leading light on the continent. I want to encourage you to work together to help the Department of Communications take South Africa forward.

“These days it’s possible to run an office from cellphones. The challenge is to take advantage of the opportunities offered by digital technologies so that the country can meet its challenges. I call on you to assist in expanding the ICT sector to its full length and breadth.

“We need to stop talking and start doing and we need to get rid of the lines dividing us. I’ve become synonymous with the word ‘rural’ because it’s so close to my heart. I will keep talking about rural until everyone living in rural areas has access to broadband and broadcasting services,” said the Minister.

For more on the Minister’s speech see story headlined “Much to be done in SA’s digital future”.
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