DTPS readies first strategy documents from ICT White Paper

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DTPS director-general Robert Nkuna.
DTPS director-general Robert Nkuna.

Government is preparing to take three strategy documents, which have arisen from the National Integrated ICT Policy White Paper, published last year, to Cabinet.

This is according to Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS) director-general Robert Nkuna, who was speaking to ITWeb in a telephonic interview.

Nkuna says the three strategies that are ready to be submitted to Cabinet for approval are the e-government strategy, the e-strategy and the rapid deployment of electronic communications infrastructure strategy.

"The difference between the e-strategy and the e-government strategy is that the e-government strategy only focuses on government and how government is going to use ICT to innovate its governance and delivery of strategy. The e-strategy is an umbrella strategy that takes an economy-wide view about how we are going to shape up in future when it comes to ICT, so those are ready and have been done internally and finalised," he says.

It has been almost a year since the ICT White Paper was approved by Cabinet, a document that was three years in the making. The new policy replaces the separate white papers on telecommunication (1996) and postal services (1998).

Government has described the policy as a framework to provide access to modern communications infrastructure, facilitate the entry of new players into the ICT industry and meaningful participation of all citizens.

Nkuna says the rapid deployment of electronic communications infrastructure strategy is something the department has been planning for many years. It is being developed in consultation with local government and others and is about finding a way to enable infrastructure deployment without constraints.

"What we want is to standardise the way we deploy infrastructure - the way the municipalities give approvals for infrastructure, the way they charge, and the time it takes for approvals to be granted - in such a way that it lowers the cost of communication.

"Because if the deployment of infrastructure is costly for industry then that cost gets passed on to the consumer. So we have the responsibility as the department and government, as well as working with others, to make sure there is a streamlined approach which oversees that when you go to Polokwane what you get is not different to when you go to Pietermaritzburg," the DG explains.

"By so doing, the department has a plan to ensure that process is seamless, efficient and cost-effective. Once we do that, we expect industry also to lower the cost of communications because we would have done our part in making it easier for them. So this is a very important instrument in lowering the cost to communicate in addition to the work we are doing with regulation."

Lowering the cost to communicate in SA has been a key focus area for the department over the past few months and Nkuna says it is working on the matter through both the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) and the Competition Commission.

ICASA in July launched an inquiry to determine the priority markets in the electronic communications sector, while the Competition Commission in August launched its own inquiry into the high price of data services in SA.

The debate over the high cost to communicate in SA has been raging for some time and gained traction in September 2016 when South Africans took to social media to complain about high mobile data costs under the banner #DataMustFall.

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