USAASA drives connectivity in ECape

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USAASA says 295 government sites have access to Internet services in the Eastern Cape's OR Tambo District Municipality.
USAASA says 295 government sites have access to Internet services in the Eastern Cape's OR Tambo District Municipality.

The Universal Service and Access Agency of SA (USAASA) says connectivity has been provided to 295 public sites in the Eastern Cape's OR Tambo District Municipality, as part of the SA Connect pilot.

SA Connect is a government-led broadband project whose key objective is for access to reach a critical mass of South Africans. Phase one of the project focuses on connecting schools, health facilities, government offices, Thusong Centres and post offices in eight rural district municipalities to broadband services.

OR Tambo District Municipality is one of the eight priority districts earmarked to pilot the SA Connect project. It is also one of the areas identified as posing the most challenges to connect.

Last year, the Eastern Cape-located municipality kicked-off the first phase of the broadband rollout project in two zones, namely King Sabata Dalindyebo (KSD) Local Municipality and Mhlontlo Local Municipality.

USAASA, which reports to the telecoms and postal services department, appointed Brightwave Technologies to construct and extend broadband infrastructure and services to connect the KSD and Mhlontlo municipalities.

According to the agency, connectivity infrastructure has been built in 536 schools and 73 clinics in that priority district.

Nationally, USAASA says it has connected 745 schools, 235 clinics and 67 other public institutions.

"In other provinces, service providers include: Grow Makhosikati for Impendle Local Municipality in KZN, MTN in Umsinga Local Municipality in KZN and Emalahleni Local Municipality in the Eastern Cape, Galela Technologies for Joe Morolong Local Municipality in Northern Cape and Ratlou Local Municipality in the North West, and Mongalo Technologies for the Albert Luthuli Local Municipality in Mpumalanga and Motale Local Municipality in Limpopo."

Long time coming

The telecoms ministry, led by Siyabonga Cwele, is in charge of overseeing the ambitious broadband project that has been crutching along for the last few years now.

Promulgated by the then Department of Communications in 2013, SA Connect is the country's national broadband policy and associated strategy to meet the technology goals of the National Development Plan.

Through the project, government aims to deliver 100% broadband connectivity to state facilities by 2020. It is also expected to deliver broadband access to 90% of the country's population by 2020 and 100% by 2030.

Cwele previously noted the economic downturn had been one of the biggest challenges in rolling out the project. As a result, the department decided to mandate state-owned companies to implement phase one of SA Connect.

Last year, the minister's department engaged with National Treasury to allow state entities that have the capacity to roll out broadband and connectivity.

To supplement SA Connect, the department introduced the 'Internet for All' initiative last year.

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