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ICT policy next year

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The Department of Communications (DOC) expects to conclude all the legislative requirements for developing a new integrated ICT policy by the end of next year.

It also hopes to start implementing the policies in 2014, and in the discussion document it says it plans to submit the policy to Cabinet by the first quarter of next year.

The department is today hosting the National Integrated ICT Policy Colloquium to create a platform for the ICT industry to review its ICT policies.

The colloquium will assist the department to develop and promote sustainable ICT policies, which will increase universal access to ICT services throughout SA.

“As the department, we are committed to moving with speed in ensuring that we conclude all the legislative and Parliamentary requirements for developing policies by the end of next year and start implementing these policies in 2014,” said communications minister Dina Pule.

Attracting women

She added that the outcomes of this ICT policy development process have to be aligned to the government's apex priorities of fighting crime and corruption, rural development, improving health and education, and creating sustainable jobs.

“In other words, the final policy has to be aligned to the government's developmental goals and address challenges that this industry faces, such as increasing the number of female executives and attracting younger women in ICTs. We also need greater investment in local research, development and innovation.”

The minister said the review has to remove aspects of legislation that are irrelevant and are hindering economic growth and social cohesion, while ushering in elements that are important now and those that will be significant into the future.

“As a country, we adopted the White Paper on Broadcasting in 1998, which directed us to create a broadcasting system that our people enjoy today. Now digital broadcasting is upon us, which poses new opportunities and challenges. The Telecommunications Act of 1996, as well as the Electronic Communications Act of 2005 were enacted and further led to the partial privatisation of Telkom and further liberalisation of the telecommunications market through the licensing of more telecommunication companies to provide services to our people,” said Pule.

Unclear strategy

The department has been engaging with stakeholders and the consistent view that emerged was that policies need to be realigned towards a developmental state, that broadband strategy was the biggest area of policy uncertainty, and that the department's strategy for investment in broadband infrastructure is unclear.

“It is clear that more needs to be done, with speed, to propel our country into an advanced information society and knowledge economy,” said the minister.

“We have, therefore, prioritised the need to address the ICT policy environment in the country such that it addresses existing challenges and takes us to the year 2030.”

Fair competition

Pule also reiterated the department's commitment to achieving 100% broadband penetration and creating one million jobs by 2020.

She explained that the colloquium should result in the formulation of the White Paper on Integrated National ICT Policy. “We expect to consolidate all policy on broadcasting services in the digital environment; broadband and Internet access; spectrum licensing framework for the country's development; new regulatory areas in all of these; funding and investment; e-skills development; local content development and ICT market growth."

The ICT policy must answer questions that include how best can investment in local electronics manufacturing for the future of SA be influenced, and how to ensure that rural connectivity becomes a reality in the roll-out of broadband Internet.

“We need technology transfer to help meet the demand for technologies. We need fair competition in the market that will lead to the lowering of the costs of communications,” added Pule.

“Between 2003 and 2005, SA's average ICT expenditure as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) was 9.13%, among the highest rates in the continent. The sector contributed 4.3% to the GDP in 2008, a rate that is lower than the world average of 5.4% contribution. This needs to improve and today marks the start of a process that will lead to the sector contributing a lot more to the economic growth of our country and to eradicating poverty.”

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