SA Connect sets lower target for second phase

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 01 Nov 2023
Government has been in the process of implementing SA Connect since 2013.
Government has been in the process of implementing SA Connect since 2013.

MTBPS 2023: The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT) has revised its target for phase two of government’s ambitious South Africa Connect broadband project.

According to the Adjusted Estimates of National Expenditure (AENE) document, the DCDT is now looking to connect 882 000 households as part of the broadband plan in the 2023/24 financial year.

This is down from the projected target of 1.9 million households, as published in the 2023 Estimates of National Expenditure (ENE). The ENE revealed the department further targeted connecting 3.8 million households during the 2024/25 financial year.

The changed target for the 2023/24 financial year is attributed to delays in the governance arrangements, reads the AENE. “This led to delays in the disbursement of funds and a reduction in the budget.”

The AENE further reveals the department only managed to achieve a target of 897 in the first half (April to September) of 2023/24, in terms of the number of households connected as part of the national broadband plan.

The AENE is the document released to coincide with finance minister Enoch Godongwana’s 2023 Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) delivered in the National Assembly today.

The MTBPS sets out the policy framework for the budget that is presented in February, providing the country with an update on National Treasury’s economic forecasts. It also adjusts the budgets of government departments and makes emergency changes to spending.

In the making since 2013, SA Connect is the national broadband project identified by government to ensure universal access to broadband services for all South Africans, prioritising rural and underserviced areas.

Phase one of SA Connect was aimed at connecting government facilities, with phase two of the project targeting provision of internet access on an ongoing basis.

During the February budget, National Treasury’s ENE indicated the DCDT will receive an additional R3 billion in the 2023/24 and 2024/25 financial years, to implement phase two of the project.

The communications department, supported by state‐owned entities such as Broadband Infraco, Sentech and the State IT Agency (SITA), said it will continue to provide broadband connectivity to government facilities over the medium-term expenditure framework period.

“Phase two also involves SITA upgrading and connecting government sites from existing budgets, and the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa imposing universal service obligations on mobile network operators to connect 18 036 schools, 3 873 health facilities and 8 241 tribal authority sites,” stated the document at the time.

Meanwhile, the department is scheduled to officially launch phase two of the national broadband plan on 4 November in the Eastern Cape.