The new Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Siyabonga Cwele, requested a budget of R1.59 billion for his department during his budget vote speech in Parliament recently.
In his speech Cwele said the department would focus on infrastructure roll-out, the expansion of e-government services, and the streamlining of public entities in the sector.
The department will implement the Strategic Integrated Project (SIP)- 15 which will prioritise local production and manufacturing, research and innovation, content and application development, and ICT skills and human resource development.
Cwele also stated that they plan to develop better e-government platforms, for use by departments, to deliver services online to citizens, and that over the next five years a significant number of government services will be available online.
Following this he also cautioned that South Africa must not rely too heavily on mobile broadband.
“South Africa must move away from over-reliance on mobile broadband as it will not be sufficient for ensuring effective e-service delivery in schools, health facilities, and other government institutions,” said Cwele.
Instead the department will be focusing on the National Broadband Policy which aims for 100% broadband penetration by 2020. R20 million has already been allocated towards the first phase of this plan which will be implemented this year.
“By the end of this month, the business case will be finalised that seeks funding to connect 580 clinics, 4 444 schools, 182 police stations, and 572 other government offices in the medium term,” said Cwele.
He acknowledged that the deployment of fast and affordable broadband infrastructure is an essential tool for creating an internationally competitive knowledge economy, and plans to focus on infrastructure gaps with respect to the urban and rural divide, and access networks which will facilitate fibre to the home.
The minister also mentioned that he plans to bring costs down within the telecoms sector.
“Government seeks to establish an environment in which the cost to communicate is affordable to all South Africans,” Cwele said.
According to Cwele the department will seek to establish a plan of action to reduce costs by forcing more transparent pricing from operators, as well as conducting a number of studies on the various costs to operators.