By BroadBand4Africa.org.za JOHANNESBURG, 27 April 2009
Why undertake this initiative now?
South Africa is on the cusp of major broadband infrastructure roll-out. Seacom, a submarine cable initiative, will link South Africa to India and Europe by mid-2009, breaking the monopoly of Telkom’s SAT3 cable and bringing down the cost of international bandwidth. The judgment in the Altech legal challenge opens the way for anyone to build and operate a high-speed broadband network, further reducing the barriers to deploying broadband internet. Are South Africans prepared for this? What is missing is a coherent policy framework to guide the development of broadband. The election of a new government provides an opportunity to look at the policy framework with fresh eyes and to consider the inter-related components needed to develop a coherent national broadband strategy.
Does broadband really make a difference to economic growth?
A 2009 World Bank report has analysed the impact of broadband on growth in 120 countries from 1980 to 2006, showing that each 10 percentage points of broadband penetration results in 1.21% increase in per capita GDP growth in developed countries and 1.38% increase in developing countries. Investing in broadband is an investment in economic growth and development.
Are there other similar broadband initiatives?
In the USA, stakeholders formed a US Broadband Coalition to call on the Obama administration to develop a national broadband strategy. See http://www.bb4us.net/
Why is the website called broadband4africa.org.za?
We believe that strategic investment in broadband infrastructure is not just a priority for South Africa but for the continent as a whole. By choosing the URL broadband4africa, we hope to inspire other such initiatives on the continent and to link up with them for mutual support. Thus there might be a broadband4africa.org.gh (Ghana) or broadband4africa.org.mz (Mozambique). We hope that sharing experiences and strategies will strengthen our engagement with all stakeholders.
What do you expect the new government to do?
We hope to see the new government consult with all stakeholders in developing a national broadband strategy that has a clear goal, a set of objectives and targets that can be measured. One way of doing this may be for government to establish a consultative process that involves stakeholders in working groups on key objectives of the broadband strategy such as infrastructure, content, egovernance/ecitizenship, education and health. The government needs to bring all stakeholders into alignment behind the strategy so as to reach the goal of affordable broadband for all.
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Photo by Osswea, used with permission