Financial

Internet for All making progress, says Cwele

Minister Siyabonga Cwele delivered the telecoms and postal services budget vote in Parliament today.
Minister Siyabonga Cwele delivered the telecoms and postal services budget vote in Parliament today.

The Internet for All initiative, which aims to connect millions of South African citizens over the next two years, is making progress.

This is according to Siyabonga Cwele, Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS) minister, addressing media ahead of his budget vote speech in Parliament today.

Cwele was outlining plans for the DTPS's R923 million budget this financial year, stating that government plans to pursue key ICT initiatives that will facilitate socio-economic justice and inclusion, attract investment, transform the sector and prepare South Africans for the fourth industrial revolution.

Internet for All was formed last year in partnership with the DTPS, World Economic Forum, public, private and community organisations. Government and the department are looking to the programme to help speed up ambitions to connect more than 22 million unconnected people.

According to Cwele, in the past year a secretariat, with secondment from MTN, has been established.

Further progress, the minister noted, includes the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the Independent Communications Authority of SA carrying out Internet infrastructure gap analysis mapping.

In addition, Cwele said Sentech, Intelsat and Didusec began a pilot connectivity project in Alfred Nzo District Municipality, which is now being expanded to other municipalities. "This infrastructure project is premised on supporting local entrepreneurs' kiosks to provide affordable internet connectivity services to the local population."

He added: "The South African Central Registry has commenced with the translation of Wikipedia content to all South African languages beginning with Xhosa and SiSwati for learners in Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga Provinces."

Burning govt pockets

During his presentation Cwele also noted the financial strain government has had to incur as a result of the delay in the switch from analogue to digital terrestrial television (DTT).

Government has identified the Broadcasting Digital Migration (BDM) project as a top priority to help improve the lives of South African citizens. Mobile operators are also eager to see the full implementation of the project, as this will unlock the necessary spectrum they have long been calling for.

Last week, communications minister Nomvula Makonyane also told Parliament delays in implementing the BDM project have become costly for the government and the industry.

According to Cwele, the delayed DTT programme is costing government. He said the delay is costing Sentech about R150 million per annum in dual illumination.

"We need to finalise the digital migration next year in order to release spectrum to telecommunication network providers as directed by the ITU."

Cwele quipped that government is burning money. "We are in constantly in courts with the service providers. We really want this programme to move ahead and finish because we want our people to experience nice television pictures."

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