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Phase two of govt’s ambitious broadband project confirmed

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 31 Jan 2022

Despite a series of hiccups in implementing the first phase of South Africa Connect (SA Connect), Cabinet has approved the roll out of phase two of government’s ambitious broadband project.

This comes after communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni last October confirmed the second phase of the project would still go ahead, albeit in a different manner.

In addition, president Cyril Ramaphosa has said he wants the project to be expedited in response to the growing need for South Africans to participate in the digital economy.

Resultantly, Cabinet has confirmed the next phase of the project, to give effect to the country’s broadband policy adopted by Cabinet in 2013.

It states: “The approved second phase will be rolled out using state-owned entities – State Information Technology Agency [SITA]), Broadband Infraco and Sentech – and the industry.

“Over the next 36 months, the project will connect the remaining government facilities, communities and households.

“The project forms part of government’s commitment to bridge the digital divide, especially in rural communities, and advance the digital economy. The participation of the private sector will also address the transformation of the sector by involving all relevant role-players in the electronic network sector.”

SA Connect, first announced in 2013, is the national broadband project identified by government to meet the technology goals of the National Development Plan of creating an inclusive information society.

Due to the magnitude of the project, government determined it should be implemented in two stages: phase one and phase two.

Phase one of the project, which served as a pilot phase, aimed to connect schools, health facilities, government offices, Thusong Centres and post offices, in eight rural district municipalities, to broadband services. As part of this phase, about 970 government facilities have been connected to broadband at speeds of 10Mbps, SITA previously confirmed.

To determine the best ways to implement the next phase of the broadband project, a feasibility study for phase two of SA Connect was commissioned. However, the findings of the study have yet to be made public to the media.

With SA Connect, government targets to achieve 80% broadband access in communities and government facilities over the next three years with a minimum speed capacity of 10Mbps, and 100Mbps for the high-demand facilities.

South Africa’s internet penetration measures above the halfway mark, with 56.3% of the population reported to be internet users, according to Statista.

According to Stats SA’s General Household Survey, at least one member in a household can access the internet at home, workplace, place of study or internet café. Mobile devices still remain the most common way in which to access the internet, it states.

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