Can a nation be labeled a competitive one when only a certain minority portion of that nation has the resources to compete on equal footing? These are the questions one is required to ask themselves as one reads the premise the critics use to attack Telecommunications Minister, Dr. Siyabonga Cwele’s approval of the National Integrate ICT Policy White Paper.
The overriding theme of the white paper is the critical need to implement a framework that will govern the ICT sector and ensures that government facilitates access to modern communications infrastructure and services, including the the entry of new players and meaningful participation of all citizens in the modern economy. This theme is aligned with the National Development Plan’s objective of creating “a seamless information infrastructure by 2030 that will underpin a dynamic and connected vibrant information society and a knowledge economy that is more inclusive, equitable and prosperous”.
The urgency of the need for a policy framework that ensures we reach this goal is best illustrated by the digital divide we currently face. In South Africa this can be witnessed in many different forms such as the recent #datamustfall movement which saw South African citizens issue a 30-day ultimatum to network providers to reduce their prices. The Parliamentary hearings held on the matter, demonstrated how costly staying in contact is to the average South African. The lack of ISPs in South Africa’s townships and rural areas relative to the number available in the urbanized suburbs is also evidence of how the current players have failed to address the historical inequalities created by the Apartheid regime.
The need to bring in new players has never been so evident in a country, which needs to remain globally competitive, create jobs and stimulate innovation. All of these objectives are addressed in the White Paper. These goals are also aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals released by the United Nations. The 31st October and 1st November 2016 will see a number of stakeholders within South Africa’s ICT sector unite in building an inclusive ICT growth plan through open access through debating and discussing the new ICT legislation and amendments of the current and older laws.
The Intended Outcomes of the Symposium
- Facilitate a debate and prepare a position paper by Historically Disadvantaged Individuals (HDIs) (as defined in the PPPFA Regulations of 2001) BEE Groups, grass-root organizations and rural communities.
- Prepare an input to be presented to the Parliament Portfolio Committee on Telecommunications and Postal Services
- Prepare an input to be submitted to the Minister of TPS
- Prepare an input to be discussed with ICT industry associations.
The South African economy is sluggish at best and depressed at worst. It is essential that ICTs take the lead in finding new growth paths whilst transforming our society into being a modern globally competitive economy. Transforming the ICT sector sits at the core of this journey and the current ICT white paper and potential change in legislation is a key enabler. All interested stakeholders who want an ICT industry that is globally competitive and innovative and one that provides solutions to the key issues of society are welcome to attend. The debate or discussion will be centered on issues of BEE and sustainable transformation in the ICT sector in general and spectrum specifically. The debate will also look at technologies and frequencies that can be used in rural and township South Africa.
Register to attend: http://ictwhitepaper.co.za