Communications ministry entities back Ndabeni-Abrahams

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Communications and digital technologies minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.
Communications and digital technologies minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.

Despite a tumultuous past with some of the heads of the entities within her portfolio, minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has been assured of her entities’ support in achieving her performance targets.

This follows the publication of the performance agreement entered into by the minister and president Cyril Ramaphosa, to ensure the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT) and its entities deliver on key targets.

Initially announced in the February State of the Nation Address, the performance agreements are signed by the president with all ministers, outlining the targets agreed to by his incumbent executive over themedium-term strategic framework.

A statement released by the DCDT on Monday notes Ndabeni-Abrahams met with board chairpersons and CEOs from the respective entities of the department.

Further to this meeting, the chairpersons and CEOs of entities have pledged their support in ensuring the minister meets all the targets agreed on in the performance discussion with the president, it says.

“The department, as a policy-formulating entity, relies on the government entities within its portfolio, to implement most of these policies.

“The performance agreement with the president is legally binding and will be used for measuring the success of the department.”

The entities of the DCDT are: the South African Broadcasting Corporation, the Film and Publications Board (FPB), the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), Sentech, Broadband Infraco, .ZA Domain Name Authority (.ZADNA), National Electronic Media Institute of SA, State IT Agency (SITA), Universal Service and Access Agency of SA (USAASA), the South African Post Office (SAPO) and Postbank.

“There is an undertaking that the board chairpersons and CEOs of the respective entities will work closely to leverage on each other’s strengths, and collaborate on key projects to avoid duplications. I must add that their commitment was quite encouraging,” states Ndabeni-Abrahams.

According to the minister, SITA is currently collaborating with the SAPO to roll out IT infrastructure to improve efficiencies within the national postal service.

Top among the list of targets, Ndabeni-Abrahams has signed on to ensure 80% of the South African population has access to the Internet by 2024. This target will see the country’s Internet access boosted above its current halfway mark. Only 56.3% of the population is reported to be Internet users, according to Statista.

The communications minister must also ensure the policy direction in relation to 5G is issued by December 2021, reducethe current cost of data by 50%, and monitor ICASA and ensure the regulator is adequately resourced to license 4G spectrum.

Furthermore, she must ensure SITA is repositioned in order to drive the use of local technologies. She must also guarantee the completion of the set-top box decoder rollout and switching-off analogue transmitters for the Broadcasting Digital Migration project by 2021, and rearrange spectrum radio frequencies and release the special dividend by 2023.

Turning to the state-owned enterprises (SOEs) rationalisation plan, the DCDT notes it has embarked on a process to merge some of its entities.

State signal distributor Sentech will be merged with Broadband Infraco, to form one state-owned digital infrastructure company. In October, the communications ministry announcedthe business case for the merger has been finalised.

Domain name authority .ZADNA, the FPB and ICASA will merge to form one regulator.

While ICASA regulates SA’s telecoms and broadcast industry, the FPB regulates the creation and distribution of content on public platforms, including social media, and .ZADNA administrates the .za Internet namespace.

The reason behind the merger, Ndabeni-Abrahams previously explained, is to eliminate repetition among the three entities.

In regards to USASSA, the agency will be repurposed to establish a state-owned digital fund company.

“These mergers are in line with president Ramaphosa’s announcement in this year’s State of the Nation Address that government will undertake a process of rationalisation of SOEs, to ensure they serve strategic economic or developmental purposes,” according to the statement.

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