Mbeki barely mentions ICT today

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The cost of telecommunications, modernising the telecoms infrastructure and preparations for the 2010 Soccer World Cup were the only mentions president Thabo Mbeki made of the ICT sector today during his state of the nation address in Parliament.

Speaking before a joint sitting at the opening of Parliament today, the theme of Mbeki`s speech was "All shall have equal rights", with a focus on building on equality legislation passed since 1994.

The speech comes weeks before elections for local government councils - an area of government that has come in for much criticism due to its inefficiencies and lack of leadership ability.

Unlike last year`s address, Mbeki made no mention of the high telecoms costs this country faces.

Mbeki`s most direct references to the ICT and telecoms industries was in terms of the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative of South Africa (ASGISA), which is a key element of the ruling ANC`s economic strategy and is headed by deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

According to Mbeki, R327 billion has been earmarked to support ASGISA over the next three years.

"For ASGISA to succeed, it is clear that the machinery of state, and especially local government, should function effectively and efficiently. During the past year, our government has undertaken a detailed assessment to determine what we need to do to improve the capacity of our system of local government.

"In this regard, work is proceeding apace to address such challenges as the cost of telecommunications, and import parity pricing with regard to steel and chemicals...The second national telecommunications operator should become operational later this year," the president said.

Later in his speech, Mbeki said: "To implement ASGISA, the state-owned enterprises and the public sector as a whole, working in some instances through public-private partnerships, will make large investments in various sectors to meet the demand for electricity, provide an efficient and competitive logistic infrastructure, expand and modernise the telecommunications infrastructure, and satisfy the demand for water."

Mbeki made reference to the 2010 Soccer World Cup, saying the country had better be prepared for it.

"This will encompass the stadia, broadcast facilities, including high-definition television, the necessary transport and hospitality infrastructure, safety and security, popular support for soccer and the World Cup, and selfless dedication by the local organisers of the tournament," he said.

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