Digital migration improves rural life

Monday, April 10, 2017
More Matshediso

Lebowakgomo – Getting access to a wide range of TV and radio stations will no longer be an issue for residents of Motsane, situated in Lebowakgomo in Limpopo.

The Department of Communications (DOC), in partnership with its stakeholders, on Sunday, handed out set-top boxes (STBs) to locals in the mountainous area. The STBs convert digital signals so they can be viewed on ordinary analogue TV sets.

South Africa is making headway in migrating from analogue to digital broadcasting. Government has committed to giving out five million subsidized STBs to indigent households so that they are not left out as digital migration takes hold.

Maggy Magolela, 40, is one of the people in Motsane, who received a government-subsidised STB on Sunday. She is now able to watch TV and tune into radio.

Magolela previously could not watch TV because she could not afford a satellite dish. She could also not listen to any other radio station except for the popular Limpopo radio station, Thobela FM. This is the case with the majority of residents in Motsane.

Magolela is unemployed and has three children. She, like most residents in her area and surrounding villages, depends on social grants to get by. She expressed her excitement about being a recipient of a set-top box from government.

“All this time, I had a television but I could not watch it because I could not afford a satellite dish. Today I am happy because I will no longer need to go watch television at my neighbour’s house. I am really grateful for the donation from government,” said Magolela.

Addressing scores of residents from about 16 villages in the Mafefe Traditional Authority, Basani Baloyi, the DOC’s Acting Director General, said the department and its stakeholders were there to take note of the many service delivery issues hindering progress in their communities, especially poor network connection.

“We heard about your network problems. We will come back with solutions. People who got connected through set-top boxes today are able to listen to 19 radio stations through their televisions,” said Baloyi.

Baloyi encouraged the community to visit their local South African Post Office branch to register for STBs.

Baloyi pointed out the benefits of having access to TV and radio as an educational tool.

“Once children in rural communities can watch educational TV channels and listen to radio like those living in urban areas, their performance at school will also improve,” said Baloyi.

Improving connectivity

Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) Councillor Paris Mashile said connectivity and the lack of community radios were major challenges.

“Primarily, our role is to deal with issues around Information Communication Technology (ICT). We can only facilitate, as we do not provide services. We have to call the operators and find out what their problems are because they have an obligation to do this,” he said.

Mashile said ICASA is going to establish an office in Limpopo where people can submit their complaints, and he hopes that this will help to speed up the process of delivering services to the people.

“We truly regret that we may have failed the community in ensuring that the services that other communities are getting around the country are lacking in this area, yet we talk about universal access and services,” said Mashile.

The primary objective of digital migration is to clear the radio frequency spectrum currently occupied by broadcasters, and thus facilitate the provision of wireless mobile broadband services and other innovative applications that benefit communities.

Digital migration will create new business opportunities and introduce more players in the market, thus contribution towards creating entrepreneurs and jobs in the broadcasting and digital content generation field. It also improves picture and sound quality. -

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