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Access to broadband is an imperative for the full expression of citizenship in today’s world. With affordable broadband, the enormous potential for socio-economic, cultural, and educational development in South Africa can be realised.
The Association for Progressive Communications; South Africa Connect; SANGONeT (Southern African NGO Network); and The Shuttleworth Foundation are convening a one-day event as a first step towards drafting a framework for a national broadband strategy for South Africa.
In the USA a diverse group of people came together to launch a National Broadband Coalition under the banner of BB4US to provide the then President-elect, Barack Obama and the incoming US Congress with a policy framework for a comprehensive national broadband strategy. President Obama’s technology policy is committed to deploy next-generation broadband infrastructure to get true broadband to every community in the United States through a combination of reform of the Universal Service Fund, better use of the nation’s wireless spectrum, promotion of next-generation facilities, technologies and applications, and new tax and loan incentives.’
In South Africa, we are on the cusp of a major broadband infrastructure roll out. Seacom, a submarine cable initiative will link South Africa to India and Europe by mid 2009 and break the monopoly of Telkom’s SAT3 cable and bring 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, potentially further reducing the cost of accessing broadband internet.
Broadband is not only a driver for economic development, it also provides a platform for disruptive Web 2.0 technologies that enable ordinary people to produce and distribute content on the Web – as the success of YouTube, Flickr, and Facebook demonstrate. This poses both challenges and opportunities for local content producers.
Broadband can also help facilitate e-citizenship and e-governance in order to streamline service delivery by government, and enhance relations between citizens and government to build and strengthen our democracy.
Improved availability of electric power is a necessary component for rolling out broadband, particularly in rural areas. The environmental challenges of our times demand an exploration of alternative sources of energy to sustain broadband infrastructure and a national strategy should address this.
Broadband penetration in South Africa lags behind countries with a similar level of development such as the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Turkey. One of the reasons for this is that there hasn’t been 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.
The forum on a national broadband strategy for South Africa will bring together a number of constituencies – internet service providers, communications workers, independent content providers, higher education groups and academics, civil society organizations, alternative energy experts and consumer groups. Together these interest groups will identify the key components of a national broadband strategy, which will be consolidated into a framework to be presented to the new government.
For more information contact Melody Emmett at:
firstname.lastname@example.org or + 27 82-868-6581
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Towards a national broadband strategy. Blog post by Willie Currie, November 26th, 2008
OECD: Broadband Growth and Policies in OECD Countries
OECD: Digital Broadband Content
InfoDev: Broadband for Africa – Mark Williams
Alison Gillwald: Between Two Stools: Broadband Policy in South Africa
Research ICT Africa: ICT Access and Usage in South Africa