Government working to slash communication costs

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Cape Town – Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister Siyabonga Cwele says reducing the cost of communication remains a priority for government as it is an enabler for socio-economic development.

The Minister said this when he briefed journalists after tabling the department’s Budget Vote in Parliament, on Tuesday.

He said he has also asked the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to look at the cost of data and that the process continues.

While the country’s economy is faced with headwinds due to the slow global economic growth, the Minister said government is responding to the challenges by implementing the Nine-Point Plan.

“Investing in modern Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) is one of the cross-cutting measures to ignite growth, create jobs and cushion the poor.

“The access to fast, reliable and affordable internet is a critical enabler of socio-economic development.

“It remains the most powerful equalising tool available to humankind within and between nations,” he said when he opened the debate on the department’s Budget Vote.

R40 million to assist municipalities roll-out free Wi-Fi

Minister Cwele said the July 2015 Cabinet Lekgotla received an “inspiring report” on the municipal free Wi-Fi programme.

This programme covered several metros, including Tshwane, Ekurhuleni, Nelson Mandela Bay, Johannesburg and Cape Town.

He said Cabinet has instructed the department to expedite this programme.

“We set aside R40 million to assist those metro municipalities that would demonstrate capacity and plans to spend before the end of March 2016.

“I am pleased to report that Nelson Mandela Bay has completed all 17 sites to provide free connectivity to the people of Zwide, KwaNobuhle, Korsten, KwaMagxaki, Motherwell and KwaZakhele.

Tshwane also completed connecting 61 sites for the benefit of people of Mabopane, Saulsville and Winterveld.

The Minister said Ekurhuleni has completed their 43 sites in Alberton, Benoni, Daveyton, Springs, Katlehong, Vosloorus, Tembisa, Tsakane and Nigel.

Cape Town is on track to complete its 28 sites in Athlone, Goodwood, Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Harare and Crossroads, the Minister said.

He said Johannesburg is working hard to complete 47 sites in Alexandra, Diepsloot, Tsepisong, Ivory Park, Doornkop, Orlando East, Dlamini, Lawley and Protea East.

After initial delays, Mangaung will also complete connecting 35 sites in Bloemfontein, Thaba Nchu and Botshabelo.

“Dr KK Kaunda District Municipality has been the star performer outside metros and has, through its own resources, rolled out free Wi-Fi across all its local municipalities. What is most encouraging is that most people use free Wi-Fi for educational content, job opportunities, small business development and marketing.

“Free Wi-Fi is daily bridging the digital divide. We encourage all our municipalities to set aside funds for this empowering programme for affordable internet for all. We have learnt from the best practices and stand ready to assist municipalities with sustainable Wi-Fi programmes,” he said. 

Government making strides in rolling out broadband

Minister Cwele said, meanwhile, that South Africa is making strides in the rollout of broadband as a result of government and private sector investments.

He said in 2015, telecommunications operators invested R23.5 billion and were planning to increase it to R26 billion this year.

“We are making progress towards our 2019 mobile broadband target of connecting 80% of the population. The mobile broadband 4G/LTE coverage now stands between 35 and 53%,” he said.

He said phase one of government’s broadband roll out in eight districts is almost ready for implementation after lengthy planning, consultations and agreeing on coordinating structures with the eight municipalities and relevant provinces.

He said R316 million has been allocated to connect 2 700 government facilities to broadband infrastructure in the current financial year.

“The department is working with SITA to finalise the process of appointing the service provider in line with the Public Finance Management Act.

“We have also finalised the planning and costing for Phase 2 to the rest of municipalities. Unfortunately there is no allocation in the budget because of the economic downturn. We are looking at alternative funding options including from our private sector and development finance institutions.” – SAnews.gov.za

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